Album of the Week: Martha Argerich’s Bach

Some days, nothing short of glorious will do.

Martha Argerich’s Bach is glorious, as full of magisterial triumph as I’ve heard, Gould included. Not that I’m an expert, I’m not. I simply love keyboard works from Bach to Tatum to Taylor to Waldron and there are days when I need, yes need, Bach’s clarity and precision but I also need that human touch. The fire.

I came to Martha Argerich’s Bach only recently. This recording of the Toccata In C Minor BWV 911, etc. dates from 1979 and it’s as fiery as they come. All too human. Lovely. Glorious. Deutsche Grammophon released a remastered version, from the original analog tapes, in 2018. Original reviews spoke to the quality of the recording and while I’m not a fan of focusing on same, it’s music first after all, I will say this is one fine sounding record.

From the liner notes by Jeremy Siepmann :

This is Bach playing of luminous concentration, embracing a universe of experience comparable with Beethoven but seldom even hinted at by other performers. And this immensity of vision derives entirely from the music, and is never in any degree imposed upon it. Like so much of what Argerich does, her playing here, for ears and minds not imprisoned by preconception, is as revelatory as it is unmannered. To do so much without even a hint of didacticism or idiosyncrasy is no mean feat.

And here’s conductor Daniel Barenboim:

Only the greatest artists are able to maintain the freshness of discovery with the depth of thoughtfulness. Martha Argerich is one of them. From the beginning, she wasn’t a mechanic[al] virtuoso, only concerned with dexterity and speed. She mastered those as well, of course, but her fantasy enabled her to create a very unique quantity and quality of sounds on the piano.

And finally Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson:

It was like Bach with attitude.

That’s a better way of putting it. Bach with attitude.

The high resolution (24/96) download is available from Presto Classical while the lofty resolution LP is available from where you normally buy LPs.

Listen here: