I was entranced by an interview conducted with Maestra Argerich on the eve of the 2009 Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm. She was to give a concert, playing the Ravel piano concerto, but graciously paused to share her deepest thoughts and musings about music, life, communication, getting old and more.
The interviewer was on the spot, I thought, having to feed the pianist questions that were worth her time and effort–though Argerich was artful enough to steer the repartee in her preferred direction.
A good example of her flight of fancy produced her registered enthusiasm about an impassioned cause.
She voiced “interest” in housing for “oldie” musicians in the mold of Casa Verdi in Milano. (A short film, gives a tour without narration. The visuals tell all. A long list of engraved benefactors, includes Luciano Pavarotti)
Visiting Casa Verdi
Argerich is aware of her mortality, not having to underscore the precise word, but her impromptu comments about aging made an impression.
“I am thinking all the time about “oldie” people, like myself….I want to create a place, like a musical club–for retired people who are lonely.”
The conversation could have drifted in this direction for hours, if uninterrupted.
The interviewer was in tempo.
On being amidst intellectual giants in Stockholm?
Argerich beamed in her reply.
“It’s interesting to have inspiration from others.. Communication (not invasion) is essential to life.” (the missing last word, “Right?” was registered rhetorically in her facial expression) She’s conspicuously reflective, then animated, always bristling with passion.
Practicing. Does she like it?
“I don’t like the thought of it, but once I’m doing it, I like it.”
And what is that mounted miniature statue that sits on her prized grand piano?
The early inquiry seemed frivolous.
Perhaps the interviewer had expected an answer that justified her curiosity.
Argerich reluctantly responded, revealing a “Japanese Buddhist priest,” permanently affixed—maybe, yes, it was a “a good luck charm” (in French, “porte-bonheur”) but who really cared. Let’s move on.
The awkwardness of dwelling on the figure was apparent. The pianist’s mind was churning with more inspired thought and ideas.
The conversation shifted to the middle movement of the Ravel concerto.
In this musical cosmos, Maestra refused to confirm having one fixed “feeling” about it. (as the questioner expected)
With each performance she experienced a new and different enlightenment. And in her refreshing candor she admitted to being nonplussed at times about the whole undertaking.
Through less than 6 minutes of interview time, one gleaned that Martha Argerich is a free spirit, ever evolving and growing in unique directions–Perhaps a classic throwback to another century.
But don’t try to pin her down to most of anything, si vous plait.
Finally, here’s the long-awaited You Tube video exchange for high points I might have missed. (Note additional posted interviews with Martha that are worth sampling)
One of my favorite Argerich snatches from the Verbier Music Festival