Martha Argerich’s Ravel G major was for so long a reference recording that it’s easy to forget how idiosyncratic it actually is. I wouldn’t actually blame anyone who found it too garish in its colouring, with its volatility giving diminishing returns and its rubato too predictably appassionato for a sensibility as dapper as Ravel’s. Such a person might well find exactly what they want in Steven Osborne’s account, which is masterful in its own way but essentially self-effacing.
Pianists Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire are stupendous virtuosos, and there's nothing in this recording of their 2009 Salzburg recital of staggeringly difficult works they cannot play. They know each other so well as old duo piano partners that their playing is stunning in its unity, but their distinctive individuality also comes across. What's most impressive about this recital is how completely Argerich and Freire have made this music their own. Brahms' Haydn Variations sound freer and fresher, more playful, and more profound than ever. Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances are thrillingly rhapsodic, rapturous, and dramatic. Schubert's Grand Rondeau is more lyrical, intimate, and graceful than usual, and Ravel's La Valse more ecstatic and apocalyptically over-the-top frightening than in any comparable recordings, including Argerich's own earlier releases. Captured in wonderfully clear yet wholly present digital sound, the performances on this disc will be compulsory listening for anyone who loves music, any music.