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One of the most impressive debut albums of all time arrived late: Martha Argerich had just won the Concours de Genève and Busoni Competition as a 16-year-old when Deutsche Grammophon offered her a recording contract. A welcome boost to her career? Argerich turned it down. She wasn’t ready yet. Three years later in 1961, the time had come: with Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Liszt, the passionate Argentine took the classical music world by storm.
Independent and spirited, self-critical and self-confident - from the very beginning, her personality and her concerts and recordings have exerted special fascination. In Argerich’s playing, musical passion and technical perfection go hand-in-hand. Her fellow pianists admire her, while concert organizers dread her stage fright and last-minute cancellations.
Argerich is born in 1941 in Buenos Aires; she owes her name to her Catalan ancestors. School is not important to her, the piano is the focus of her attention. She has lessons two to three times per week, and at the age of nine is already playing virtuoso works by Liszt. Her family moves to Vienna so she can have lessons with Friedrich Gulda. What Gulda criticized as a “dissolute lifestyle” continues to be central to her life: Argerich is a night owl, well known for recording sessions lasting into the early morning hours.
Argerich has withdrawn from exclusive solo performances, now favoring chamber music and appearances with orchestra. She finds fulfillment in making music with others. Her virtuosity is still there, along with her often frightening emotional power. Argerich embodies oneness with music like few of her colleagues.

© Rainer Elstner, ORF - Radio Österreich 1

Facts


  • Orchestra debut at the age of eight with Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, op. 15.

  • 1957 1st Prize at the Busoni Competition and Geneva Piano Competition.

  • 1961 Birth of her first daughter and major life crisis. Argerich considers abandoning her career.

  • 1965 Spectacular comeback culminates in winning the Warsaw Chopin Competition.

  • Since the 1980s, largely refrains from giving solo recitals.

  • 1990 Diagnosed with skin cancer. After aggressive therapy, she appears to have overcome the illness.

  • 1998 Grammy for her recording of piano concertos by Prokofiev and Bartók.

  • 1999 Her Chopin recordings from the 1965 Chopin Competition are released.

  • 2005 Praemium Imperiale, the “Nobel Prize of the Arts.”

  • 2012 Elected to Gramophone Magazine’s Hall of Fame.


Did you know?


  • Friedrich Gulda instilled in Argerich a love of jazz - to this day she often listens to jazz music on YouTube the whole night long.

  • No recording has been released of Friedrich Gulda and Martha Argerich playing together. But there is a recording of Mozart’s Triple Concerto with Gulda’s sons Rico and Paul.

  • Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim, the two piano stars from Buenos Aires, have known each other since early childhood.

  • Argerich was close friends with Claudio Abbado for decades. She got to know the conductor as a pianist - at a master class in Salzburg.

  • Argerich has three daughters from three different husbands (conductor Robert Chen, Charles Dutoit, and pianist Stephen Kovacevich).

  • Her youngest daughter explores the mother-daughter relationship - which was not without its conflicts - in her documentary film Bloody Daughter.


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Martha Argerich