Martha Argerich, Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 101

Martha Argerich, Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 101: First Movement | Second | Third | Fourth

The volume has to be increased considerably to hear everything going on in these recordings. Argerich gets very quiet numerous times, especially when playing a phrase that repeats and needs to be made distinct dynamically.

I confess that this is not the most accessible piece of classical music. It is tonal, but the theme is just complicated enough to strain the focus of those whose idea of Beethoven is the “Ode to Joy” or the first movement of the  Moonlight Sonata. The first movement is notable for its softness, delicacy and slow build. The opening of the second movement presents a fiery precision that almost jars. The short third movement contains a fuller sound, before recapitulating the theme: it seems like chords in both hands linger on the keyboard longer at times. Finally, the fourth movement has its theme and its components dance vigorously all over the keyboard in a virtuosic exercise. If you’re pressed for time, just give the fourth movement a listen – I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed in that.

As always, Argerich’s playing is precise, letting every note sing distinctly even within chords. The “build” in her pieces comes from the precision, from hearing every phrase correctly. She doesn’t mumble or do anything vague with her phrasing. I think this was recorded in 1969: her maturity is remarkable for her age. This is not an easy piece of piano music to understand, yet all of it seems to speak in this recording.

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