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Pianist

News from the world of the piano

Posted Friday, December 8, 2017   |   872 views   |   Music   |   Comments (0) Argerich and Babayan in Cleveland

The debut of Martha Argerich on the stage of Severance Hall, Cleveland, was announced in the last issue of Pianist. She gave a recital on 30 October with one of her most frequent duo partners, the Russian pianist Sergei Babayan, and happily the distinguished US journalist and long-time reporter on the Cleveland musical scene Donald Rosenberg was on hand to report on the occasion exclusively for Pianist.

He writes: This was not an occasion to bask only in Argerich’s supreme artistry. With Steinway pianos placed side by side, she sat at the instrument upstage for the programme’s first two works. Any notions that Argerich would play second fiddle, so to speak, to Babayan were dispelled when they immersed themselves with fierce resolve into his two-piano transcription of 12 movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet.

Some of their tempos were so quick that dancers would have been forced to cross eyes, not to mention limbs. But the visceral impact of hearing two keyboard wizards in urgent action, notably in the whirlwind episode in ‘The Death of Tybalt’ that usually challenges a string section, prompted the audience to respond with gasps of delight.

Babayan and Argerich maintained the same positions for Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D K448, which they shaped with heightened elegance and buoyancy. If you didn’t peek, you would never had known which pianist was playing what – so seamless was their sharing and shaping of material. The Andante wove its miraculous spell as the collaborators answered one another like friends engaged in intimate conversation.

Prokofiev was back at the printed programme’s end, with Argerich taking the first part in Babayan’s transcription of Seven Piano Pieces, in their US premiere. The collection comprises selections from incidental music to stage versions of Hamlet and Eugene Onegin, the unfinished film The Queen of Spades, and the opera War and Peace, all written in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The pianists were showered with flowers at the end, some of which they handed to their fearless page-turners, and then returned for the night’s most enchanting music-making, two Rachmaninov selections. In the Barcarolle from the Suite No 1 Op 15, and Waltz from the Suite No 2, Op 17, Argerich and Babayan savoured every rhapsodic turn of phrase and virtuosic swirl.

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About Pianist

Pianist is the magazine for people who love to play the piano. You don’t just read it – you play it too, with 40 pages of specially selected sheet music for players of all levels and all tastes. Listen to the pieces by clicking on a sound icon and turn the Scores pages with a light swipe of your hand. As well as our many articles, you can watch some 60 video lessons by our team of experts. There's so much you can do to make Pianist your interactive piano teacher!

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