From New York Times, March 16, 2000:
A Poetic Side to Prokofiev? Yes Indeed
By ALLAN KOZINN
Something spectacular almost always happens when Martha Argerich
plays the piano. Usually it's a quality inherent in her performance:
the energy and fluidity she brings to music that demands virtuoso
pianism, for example, or the vibrant connection she creates between
the music and her listeners when she is at her best. That was
certainly the case on Tuesday evening, when she played Prokofiev's
Third Concerto with Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra at
Carnegie Hall. Had it ended there, a listener might have left with
the contentment of having heard a dazzling and in many ways unusual
But it can be difficult to let the glow of that sort of performance
dissolve into intermission chatter, and the audience was unwilling
to let Ms. Argerich go. The rhythmic clapping and the shouted
requests for encores did not abate when the house lights went up.
Ms. Argerich made several attempts to persuade the concertmaster to
lead the orchestra off the stage, but the musicians kept their places.
In the end, she had no recourse but to play an encore, an expansive,
virtuosic account of the Scarlatti Sonata in D minor (K. 18) that
she recast in almost Lisztian colors and heft.
The Prokofiev is something of a signature work for Ms. Argerich,
who has played it several times in New York, and perhaps the most
immediately striking aspect of her performance on Tuesday was the
intimacy of her relationship with it. With Mr. Dutoit and the
orchestra providing solid, richly hued support at casual but by no
means lethargic tempos, Ms. Argerich toyed with the work's phrasing
the way a cat plays with a ball of yarn.
But there was something deeper and more fascinating going on as well,
and what made Ms. Argerich's account of the Prokofiev so fascinating,
both as a reading of the piece and by comparison with her own past
performances of it, was the degree to which she illuminated a poetic
and at times even gentle side of the work.
These are not qualities one normally looks for in the Prokofiev, a
concerto that thrives on spiky, explosive virtuosity. And it is not
as if Ms. Argerich held back on the flashy parts. But where the
piano line typically sounds brittle and bright, Ms. Argerich produced
a gracefully rounded tone, and where the music can seem monochromatic
-- mainly because pianists have enough of a job getting the notes
under their fingers without worrying about coloration -- Ms. Argerich
provided a wealth of shading and texture. Who could blame an audience
for wanting more?
Mr. Dutoit opened the program with Shostakovich's "Festive Overture,"
a blustery curtain-raiser that hardly merits being programmed, although
here it showed the Philadelphia's brass and winds at their gleaming
best. The second half of the concert was a lush-textured but oddly
dispassionate reading of Copland's Symphony No. 3.