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Press reviews & Critics

Martha Argerich Evening talks

Official Nominations of MIDEM Classical Awards 2009

O Globo, 27 novembre 2008 por Eduardo Fradkin

No camarin com Martha Argerich
Folha de Sao Paulo, 5. novembre 2008
"Filme expoe encantos de Martha Argerich"
"Martha Argerich, Conversa noturna" lançado no Brasil para Biscoito Fino
Veja, 5.11.2008
O Globo, 31.10.2008
"Martha, my dear"

Le Temps, 7.09.2008
Compliqué parce que toujours paradoxale, mais simple parce que totalement sincère et généreuse, telle apparaît la grande pianiste, dans ce film ou Georges Gachot a su la saisir au débotté. Elle ne finit pas toutes ses phrases, mais ce qu'elle à a dire touche au coeur, parce que la crinière de la tigresse cache tant de fragilité. Et l'humour n'est jamais absent, par exemple quand elle se rappelle ses premiers succès et ses première foucades. Les documents d'archives, les extraits de répétitions et de concerts, qui ne sont pas les plus connus, renforcent encore l'intérêt de ce DVD, à juste titre couvert de prix. P.M.

Le Monde de la Musique, Septembre 2008
Classica, Septembre 2008
Ces "conversations nocturnes "vont au coeur du sujet avec patience et pudeur. Un magnifique portrait servi par une image et un son remarquables. S.F

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 15.08.2008
Peter Hagmann
Martha Argerichs Geheimnisse
Zwanzig Jahre lang hat Georges Gachot gefragt und gebeten, dann endlich gab Martha Argerich ihre Zustimmung. «Nachtgespräche» nennt der französisch-schweizerische Filmregisseur das 2002 fertiggestellte Porträt, in dem die argentinische Pianistin am Klavier und im Gespräch die Hauptrolle spielt. Bewegend genug die Bilder aus frühen Jahren: Martha Argerich als artiges Mädchen zu Hause am Klavier, als (einzige) Schülerin von Friedrich Gulda, als Preisträgerin des Warschauer Chopin-Wettbewerbs, als junge Solistin mit Dirigenten wie Erich Leinsdorf oder später Charles Dutoit. Eine Tigerin an den Tasten, aber im Grunde genommen ein sehr scheuer Mensch - so wirkt sie auch in den geschickt zwischen die Filmdokumente eingelegten Gesprächsteilen. Sie scheint Vertrauen gefasst zu haben zu dem Filmer, der sie diskret begleitete, jedenfalls spricht sie munter und lebendig - und doch gibt sie wenig preis von sich.
Immerhin, sie berichtet von der inneren Verbindung mit den Komponisten, deren Musik sie spielt, auch von der Angst, allein auf dem Podium zu sitzen, und dem Absagen. Sehr berührend, diese anderthalb Stunden, die jetzt auf DVD verfügbar sind.

Naxos Blog, July 17th. 2008
By Paula
Martha Argerich, Forever
Generally, I would never advocate posting press releases as blog entries. In this case, however, I will make an exception. The July 29 release of Martha Argerich: Evening Talks was reason for great personal celebration for me. Yes, I've loved her playing for decades. And I just spent the better part of an hour trying to dig up an old Playbill from her last solo recital at Carnegie Hall. Much to my horror, it, along with my Horowitz programs, has gone missing. I do, however, have a whole bunch of eminently forgettable Metropolitan Opera programs from the early 1980s through the early 2000s. Don't ask.
I've told the following story many times about Argerich's recital. I remember expecting a formal affair, where the pianist would strut onstage in a suitably beautiful gown, bow gracefully, and then treat us to her great artistry. I got the last bit, which of course is all that mattered in the end. If memory serves, Argerich almost waddled onto the stage in a black leotard, long black stretchy skirt, and those hideous Mao shoes that were once "fashionable" (God knows why). She didn't quite bow, but I do remember her head seemed to slope downward. But for anyone who has ever heard the great Ms. Argerich play, it made absolutely no difference. Of course she brought the house down … and seemed almost surprised by her feat. It was as if she thought that what she was doing was very simple: she was merely speaking for the composers, pure and simple. They, in fact, were the Gods and she was just the messenger.
Below is my love letter to the film and to Ms. Argerich:
"First of all, there was this interview-which is not an interview at all, as I do not believe I asked her a single question. Let us, rather, call it a conversation that took place at dead of night, without a spotlight or makeup- a single 'night-time conversation' recorded as if by miracle on the magnetic tape of a comer that would then become the very heart of this film." -Georges Gachot
It took the French film director Georges Gachot 20 years to convince the very private and elusive Martha Argerich to agree to appear on camera for this intimate portrait. The resulting film, Martha Argerich: Evening Talks (Medici Arts 3073428), pays tribute to this great pianist's 40-year career with a blend of informal conversations and superb performance footage. It also contains rare archival material from across the globe, including footage from her 1957 First Prize win at the Geneva Competition when she was just 16.
The film allows Argerich to express her feelings about music, composers, and musicians and to discuss her background and early career and how they shaped her as an artist. Argerich reminisces about her early studies with Austrian pianist Frederich Gulda, whom she credits with "[teaching] her how to listen." She also recounts her yearlong stint with Michelangeli, during which time she received only four lessons. Moreover, she recalls the crisis she experienced in her early 20s, which spurred fellow Argentinean pianist (and conductor) Daniel Barenboim to once say, "Martha, you are like a very beautiful painting without the frame." It becomes clear that her abandonment of solo performance so early in her career grew partly out of the intense loneliness she felt during this period.
However, through her commitment to concerto and chamber music repertoire, Martha Argerich developed into a deeply generous artist, never satisfied with herself and always looking for new meanings and approaches to her repertoire. "I find something new all the time," she explains. "I hope I always will; I always doubt and I'm always groping." She finds her deepest satisfaction in communicating with other musicians and communing with composers, whose music is inarguably part of her DNA. Gulda once told her "It's not your fault that Schumann was not Argentinean." As she plays Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor (effortlessly, it would seem), the listener notes that the music appears to be a natural extension of her being. "I hope I'm not bad for him," Argerich remarks. "Schumann is very intimate for me, but I hope he likes me." It is not surprising to hear this unique artist make such a humble comment about her work. Argerich appears utterly possessed by the composer's essence each time she performs his music.
In a 2001 article about Martha Argerich for The New Yorker, critic Alex Ross wrote "Argerich brings to bear qualities that are seldom contained in one person: she is a pianist of brainteasing technical agility; she is a charismatic woman with an enigmatic reputation; she is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music. This last may be the quality that sets her apart. A lot of pianists play huge double octaves; a lot of pianists photograph well. But few have the unerring naturalness of phrasing that allows them to embody the music rather than interpret it." One listen to the Scarlatti encore from her performance in Zurich and the viewer will know exactly what Ross means.

The Toronto Star, Aug 05, 2008
By John Terauds
DVD Review
"He's been very good to me; he's never played any tricks on me."
Pianist Martha Argerich is talking about composer Sergei Prokofiev. For her, the personal is musical and the musical is personal. That is the core message in this hour-long 2002 documentary by Georges Cachot.
Buenos Aires native Argerich, now 67, rose to the top rank of pianists after winning two big competitions in 1957. But her long, still intensely active career has been marked in seeming equal proportion with public triumphs and private doubts. In the documentary, she describes how pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim described her as a "beautiful painting without a frame." Gachot does the best he can to put this intensely shy artist with a huge personality into focus, using a stream of rehearsal and concert footage as the narrative flesh.
The English title of the documentary is misleading, as the rambling interview that is this film's spine was done in one take, late one night in 2001 during a post-post-performance gathering of Argerich intimates. This headstrong, self-assured artist is still the innocent, bewildered 16-year-old who stunned Europe more than half a century ago. In the absence of personal detail, her music speaks louder than any words.
There are 30 minutes of concert extras. What a treat.

New York Times, 3 August, 2008
A Film on the Reclusive Pianist Martha Argerich, Now on DVD ...
Once-Shy Pianist Tells, Um, Not Quite All
WHEN the reclusive Argentine pianist Martha Argerich performs, her long, thick hair cascades over her shoulders, often entirely obscuring her face from the audience and affording a glimmer of privacy even onstage.
A scene from the documentary "Martha Argerich: Evening Talks," which offers close-up interviews with this Argentine pianist and archival footage.
Ms. Argerich, who for almost two decades gave very few solo recitals, has always felt uneasy in the spotlight offstage as well. "I just saw a program called 'Big Brother,' " she says at the beginning of "Martha Argerich: Evening Talks," a 2002 film by Georges Gachot newly released on DVD by the Medici Arts label. "All those exhibitionists who like their private lives filmed. Not me."
But Ms. Argerich, a brilliant musician whose playing combines prodigious technique with uncanny musicality, overcame her shyness and granted Mr. Gachot a three-hour interview. It was shot one evening in 2001 between a rehearsal and a performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto with the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra in Heilbronn, Germany.
According to the DVD booklet Mr. Gachot had been trying to obtain such an interview for more than 20 years. "Evening Talks," in which Ms. Argerich, 67, chats candidly in French and English, is billed as the first film about her. Intimate, close-up interview shots are interspersed with archival footage, from her teenage victory at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1957 to solo, chamber and concerto appearances as recent as 2001.
Ms. Argerich recalls her first musical epiphany. She was 6, at a concert with her mother, listening to Claudio Arrau play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The trills in the second movement gave her goose bumps. "I was dozing off, and suddenly," she says with a sharp intake of breath, experienced "an electric shock." Ms. Argerich refuses to play the concerto, she says, because "I'm afraid what would happen, it's so important to me."
At 9, before performing a Mozart concerto, she knelt down and thought, "If I hit one wrong note, I'll die." That sense of perfection stayed with her.
"I always doubt," she says. "I'm always groping. If you're too pleased with what you've done, or you get into a routine, that's the worst. Sometimes I go out on a limb, so it doesn't happen."
Ms. Argerich candidly recalls the crisis of loneliness she experienced in her midteens after winning both the Geneva competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy. "I was terribly shy," she says. "It was dismal. I was in quite a state. Then when I was 19 or 20, I went through a crisis." She spent a few years in New York watching late-night television.
Ms. Argerich, whose last-minute cancellations have disappointed fans, describes her first cancellation, at 17 in Florence. She was not unwell, she says, but thought she "didn't want to play." So she sent a telegram to the concert organizers saying she had hurt her finger. She then took a knife and cut her finger, so "it would be true." The wound was so bad it also prevented her from playing a concert the next week.
Like other legendary performers, including the cellist Pablo Casals and the pianist Vladimir Horowitz, Ms. Argerich has suffered from stage fright. "Sometimes I was in terrible panics," she says ruefully. "I'd imagine the worst things, imagine a full hall. It's terrible." Her knees would tremble so forcibly, she says, that her feet would inadvertently bang on the floor, and she suffered chills and runny noses.
When she was young, Ms. Argerich's nearsightedness was also problematic. She didn't have contact lenses at the time and didn't want to wear glasses onstage. So the piano looked "like crocodile's teeth," she says, and the bright lights made her feel "like an insect." The film doesn't touch on other aspects of her personal life, like her marriages to the conductor Charles Dutoit and the pianist Stephen Kovacevich, her three daughters or her recurring bouts with cancer, which began in the 1990s.
The film offers footage of Ms. Argerich, who often laughs during the interview, performing the composers she discusses. During a rehearsal of Schumann's Piano Concerto she vociferously argues in German with Jörg Faerber, the conductor, dismissing his suggestions.
"I prefer not to fool with Schumann," she says. "But I think he likes me." She describes performing Liszt and Chopin in the same recital: "The Liszt Sonata would be fine but not the Chopin Preludes. So I'd say, 'He's a little jealous.' " As for Prokofiev, she says with a laugh: "He's very fond of me. He's never played any dirty tricks on me." A night owl, Ms. Argerich claims that she learned Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 by osmosis, while sleeping during the day in the same room where her roommate practiced.
Daniel Barenboim once told Ms. Argerich she was "like a beautiful painting without a frame." This film offers fans an insightful, unguarded portrait.

Georges Gachot Filmmaker

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