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Martha Argerich, The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon

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It is universally agreed that there is no greater living pianist than Martha Argerich. On this mammoth and beautifully presented 48-disc box set – Martha Argerich, The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophona monarch among classical box sets for gift giving season – you'll hear the music that convinced the modern classical world of the 71-year old pianist's supremacy beginning in the '60s. These are not just her recordings for DGG but for Phillips too. "A living legend" is what box notater Gregor Willmes justly calls her and does his best to tell us why – how, for instance, when Argerich was 7 years old "she performed Mozart's D-major concerto, Beethoven's C-major concerto and Bach's Fifth French Suite, all on the same evening, producing what her French biographer, Oliver Bellamy, has described as a ‘veritable frenzy' in her audience." "Even as a girl" said her (brief) teacher Frederich Gulda, "she really could do anything." And that is what she does pretty much on these 48 discs with a frequent magnificence – and nothing less than proficiency – that couldn't help but be the stuff of legend. She began in 1960 showing the world that she could perform an LP of Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Ravel and Prokofiev all together. That, she staked out from the beginning, as her territory – classic era masterworks, romantic masterworks and modern masterworks, all liable to be given inspired treatment. Her 1977 recording of Stravinsky's "Les Noces" with Leonard Bernstein and 1981 recording of Bartok's Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra with Nelson Freire and David Zinman are as Olympian as her performances of Beethoven and Brahms. Nothing seems to daunt her – Janacek, Lutowslawski, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, all by the same pianist so exceptional in Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. "Her recording of Liszt's B-Minor Sonata continues to set the bar for others" says Willmes. She's been as dedicated to chamber music as solo and duo performance. She has survived her bouts with cancer and, become in our 21st century world, the pianist who prevails, in many views, over all others. In this gigantic box set, anyone who can understand why that is.  (Jeff Simon)

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