The range of pieces here is so wide that all I can do is comment on the individual works. But I must admit I like live performances, where we know that minimal ‘tarting up’ has taken place.
Drawn from a concert given at the Lugano Festival in 2013, we begin with Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. This delightful work proceeds with more punch than usual and Argerich is in fine form. The last movement, arguably the bounciest piece Beethoven ever wrote, is splendid. Argerich delivers the same incisive standard in the rarer Second Cello Sonata. The cellist, Gautier Capuçon, does not quite match the level of his accompanist.
One would be hard pressed to recognise the usually flamboyant Respighi, the composer of the great Roman orchestral triptych, by his more sober and formal Violin Sonata. Workmanlike is the best word I can find for it; still it’s worth having, especially the lyrical final movement. Minor Liszt and less familiar Shostakovich follow, both initially hiding their identities, they give cellist Capuçon some fine opportunities to shine.
The third disc is soley devoted to French music, beginning with the rapturous Ravel Violin Sonata. Wistful and elegant, it wends its way for 16 minutes across the musical landscape. Debussy’s Petite Suite for piano four hands makes a change from the string-oriented compositions, providing more musical variety, liveliness and invention than many of the works on the second two discs.
Offenbach’s Gâité Parisienne, in a new arrangement for three pianos by Caro Maria Griguoli, provides a zippy contrast the rest of the selection, as does the wonderfully enjoyable Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns. The musicians bring to these pieces the same focus and detail they do to Beethoven. As a concert of many unusual works performed by top artists, the three CDs have a great deal of merit.