Martha Argerich with Sergiu Celibidache and Orchestra National de France – in concert at The Lausanne Festival – June 6, 1974 – RTS, Lausanne, Switzerland.
A historic concert this week. Orchestre National de France led by the legendary Rumanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache and featuring the iconic Martha Argerich in a performance of the Schumann Piano concerto from the 1974 Lausanne Festival in Switzerland and broadcast by the Swiss Radio/TV outlet RTS.
The concert opens with Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso. It’s followed by the Schumann with Argerich and ending with the Second Suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
Sergiu Celibidache’s career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Sicilian Symphony Orchestra and several other European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Celibidache frequently refused to release his performances on commercial recordings during his lifetime, claiming that a listener could not have a “transcendental experience” outside the concert hall. Many of the recordings of his performances were released posthumously. He has nonetheless earned international acclaim for his interpretations of the classical repertoire and was known for a spirited performance style informed by his study and experiences in Zen Buddhism. He is regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.
Argerich performed her debut concert at the age of 8, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto in C major. Argerich rose to international prominence when she won the seventh International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1965, at age 24. In that same year, she debuted in the United States in Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series. In 1960, she had made her first commercial recording, which included works by Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Liszt; it received critical acclaim upon its release in 1961. She has since recorded works by many composers, including Ginastera, Rachmaninoff and Schumann, whom she describes feeling a particular connection to.
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 pianists in history. Her performance of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto conducted by Daniel Barenboim at The Proms 2016 prompted this review in The Guardian: “It was an unforgettable performance. Argerich celebrated her 75th birthday in June this year, but that news doesn’t seem to have reached her fingers. Her playing is still as dazzling, as frighteningly precise, as it has always been; her ability to spin gossamer threads of melody as matchless as ever. This was unmistakably and unashamedly Liszt in the grand manner, a bit old-fashioned and sometimes even a bit vulgar at times, but in this of all concertos, with Barenboim and the orchestra following each twist and turn, every little quickening and moment of expressive reflection, it seemed entirely appropriate”. Argerich returned to the Proms at the age of 78 in 2019 to perform Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto under the baton of Barenboim, a performance described as “mesmerizing”.
Enjoy the show.