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Martha Argerich at age of 21 in 1962
Martha Argerich (born June 5, 1941) is an Argentinianmarker concert pianist. Her aversion to the press and publicity has resulted in her remaining out of the limelight for most of her career. Nevertheless she is widely recognized as one of the greatest modern-day pianists. In a 2001 article about Martha Argerich for The New Yorker, critic Alex Ross wrote: "Argerich brings to bear qualities that are seldom contained in one person: she is a pianist of brain-teasing technical agility; she is a charismatic woman with an enigmatic reputation; she is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music. This last may be the quality that sets her apart. A lot of pianists play huge double octaves; a lot of pianists photograph well. But few have the unerring naturalness of phrasing that allows them to embody the music rather than interpret it."

Early life

Argerich was born in Buenos Airesmarker and started playing the piano at age three (the provenance of the Argerich name is uncertain: some say it is Catalanmarker, while others maintain it originates from Croatiamarker). At age five, she moved to teacher Vincenzo Scaramuzza who stressed to her the importance of lyricism and feeling. She gave her debut concert in 1949 at the age of eight, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15. In 1950, she played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 and Bach's French Suite in G major, BWV 816.

The family moved to Europe in 1955 where Argerich studied with Friedrich Gulda in Austriamarker. Juan Perón, then the president of Argentina, made their decision possible by appointing her parents to diplomatic posts in the Argentine Embassy in Viennamarker. She later studied with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Stefan Askenase and Maria Curcio, the last and favourite pupil of Artur Schnabel. In 1957, at sixteen, she won both the Geneva International Music Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition, within three weeks of each other. It was at the latter that she met Michelangeli, whom she would later seek out for lessons during a personal artistic crisis at the age of twenty. However, she methim only four times in a year, so he was not a big influence on her. Her greatest influence was Gulda, with whom she studied for 18 months.

Professional career

Argerich rose to international prominence when she won the seventh International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsawmarker in 1965, at age 24. One of her performances in that winning campaign was a defiantly confident reading of Chopin's Etude in C major . At the time, besides being already a master pianist, she also conveyed an aura of a nouvelle vague actress, wearing conspicuous mini-skirts and continuously smoking cigarettes

In 1966 she debuted in the United Statesmarker in the Lincoln Centermarker's Great Performers Series. In that year she made her first recording, including works by Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Liszt. A few years later she recorded Chopin's Sonata No. 3, Polonaise, Op. 53, and other short works.

Her technique is considered amongst the most formidable of her time, inviting comparison with Vladimir Horowitz. Indeed, her early recordings (made at age 19) of such competition mainstays as Prokofiev's Toccata and Liszt's Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody remain yardsticks for these works. Although some critics say she has exaggerated dynamics and tempi, her playing is characterised by her passionate and unique sound.

Argerich has often remarked in interviews of feeling "lonely" on stage during solo performances. Since the 1980s she has staged few solo performances, instead focusing on concertos and, in particular, chamber music, and accompanying instrumentalists in sonatas. She is noted especially for her recordings of 20th century works by composers such as Rachmaninoff, Messiaen and Prokofiev. One notable compilation pairs Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (recorded in December 1982 with the Radio Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under direction of Riccardo Chailly) with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 (February 1980, Symphonie Orchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Kirill Kondrashin).

Argerich is also famous for her artistic interpretation of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, which she has recorded and still performs today. She recalls learning the concerto while she slept as her roommate practiced it.

Argerich has married three times. Her first marriage was to composer Robert Chen, with whom she had a daughter Lyda Chen, who is a violist. From 1969 to 1973, Argerich was married to conductor Charles Dutoit, with whom she continues to record and perform. Annie Dutoit is their child. Her third husband was pianist Stephen Kovacevich, with whom she also had a child, Stephanie Argerich.

One of Argerich's closest friends is the Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, with whom she frequently appears in duo-piano recitals.

Argerich has been tireless in promoting younger pianists, both through her annual festival and through her frequent appearances as a member of the jury at important competitions. The Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelić was thrust into the musical spotlight through Argerich's work as a competition juror: after being eliminated in the third round of the 1980 International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsawmarker, Argerich proclaimed him a genius and left the jury in protest. She has supported several artists including Gabriela Montero and Sergio Tiempo.

Argerich is president of the International Piano Academy Lake Como and performs each year at the Lugano Festival, Switzerlandmarker. She has been General Director of the Argerich Music Festival and Encounter in Beppu, Japanmarker, since 1996.


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