If you want to hear a dazzling young female pianist with a promising career ahead of her, try this. Such creatures are common today, but this set is special. It collects unreleased recordings Argerich made in 1960 and 1967 for North and West German Radio. At the time of the earliest of these, she was studying with Friedrich Gulda, who famously said he had nothing to teach her as “she could already do everything”.
Argerich’s recognisable characteristics are here: lightning reflexes; pithy attack; astounding nuance at high speed. She has since abandoned the solo repertoire, so it is fascinating to hear her in Mozart (Sonata No 18, K576) and Beethoven (the Sonata in D, Op. 10 No 3). The latter particularly benefits from her vitality and velocity; it is a shame she never recorded more Beethoven sonatas. The second disc contains works she rerecorded shortly afterward for DG: Prokofiev’s Toccata, Ravel’s Sonatine and Gaspard de la Nuit. In Ravel’s Ondine she is arguably too volatile – tranquillity is not in her armoury – but Scarbo is a knockout. So is her 1967 performance of Prokofiev’s Sonata No 7: the sharpness of her rhythmic response takes your breath away.
Throughout her career, Argerich has neither deepened nor mellowed her approach, but has honed the extraordinary virtuosity that she always possessed. While a pianist like Alfred Brendel used the piano as a conduit for deeply considered ideas, Argerich and her keyboard simply become one entity. She was unique in 1960, and still is.