Martha Argerich’s annual festivals at Lugarno give young artists a chance to perform with older, more established musicians and to explore the byways of chamber music. This 3-CD set comes from the 2009 Festival. All the music is capably and sensitively performed.
Argerich, of course, is a renowned artist and the Capuçon brothers, Gautier, the cellist, and Renaud, the violinist, are also well known. Other, newer musicians, who are worthy of note are the pianists Lilya Zilberstein and Khatia Buniatishvili. Because 2009 was the anniversary year for Schumann and Mendelssohn, both these composers are featured.
Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet, written at the same time as his Octet and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a pleasant enough piece, if somewhat garrulous, but it cannot hold a candle to those other masterpieces. Schumann’s Fantasiestücke for piano, cello and violin, are also hardly amongst his greatest works. The virtually unknown Sextet in E flat by Glinka is also a work worthy of an occasional hearing, but contains nothing of the Russian nationalist traits for which he became famous.
For me, the most interesting work was Bloch’s Piano Quintet No. 1, whose quality makes one wonder why his music is not heard more often. Another arresting work is Bartok’s Violin Sonata No. 2 played by Renaud Capuçon and Buniatishvili. The only orchestral work is Nights in the Garden of Spain performed capably, if with little atmosphere, by Argerich and the Swiss Orchestra. Despite my reservations, there is much to enjoy in this compilation.