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Martha Argerich receives Kennedy Center honor / Washington Post

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There are a few things everyone in the music world knows, or thinks they know, about Martha Argerich, the Argentine-born pianist who is getting a Kennedy Center Honor on Sunday. She's private, moody and unpredictable. She's wildly beautiful, with a long, thick mass of hair - once dark, now gray - and a radiant, quick smile, and at 75, she still wears the peasant blouses and cotton pants of a teenager circa 1968. And she plays the piano brilliantly, ferociously and, perhaps, better than anyone else on Earth.

Trying to pin her down for an interview seems impossible. She is said to give interviews only rarely, with reluctance. To get her to talk in 2008, Gramophone magazine enlisted the help of the pianist Stephen Kovacevich, one of the three fathers of her three daughters, who has been called the great love of her life, although they broke up for the last time in the 1970s. Even with Kovacevich there, she became physically ill at ease when the tape recorder was switched on. Yet when an interview time is eventually named, and a number dialed, there she is, on the phone from her oldest daughter's house in Switzerland, speaking in a lilting, girlish voice, sounding warm and natural and utterly unlike a formidable reclusive genius.

But after all, traveling to the States to accept a Kennedy Center Honor isn't in keeping with her image as someone who has little use for awards, either. "It was my daughter," she says. "My daughter insisted very much. And then Itzhak Perlman phoned and told me, ‘You know, it's a lot of fun.' And then I looked at some people who had received that, and then, of course, I felt very honored. . . . But I don't understand, because I think I haven't done much in America." 

READ THE FULL Washington Post ARTICLE by Anne Midgette

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