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When Deutsche Grammophon released a box set of Martha Argerich’s complete recordings for their label in September 2015, I coveted it immediately, eventually succumbing to temptation and purchasing it for my CD library. This summer I made a project of slowly listening to all 48 CDs in order of release, savoring each recording and listening to many of them several times. OK, most of them.
Just in case you’re not a classical pianist, or slept through the last fifty years, Martha Argerich is widely regarded as one of our greatest living pianists, and certainly as one of the most important classical artists of the post-WWII era.
Which makes this stupendous collection – a wide-ranging survey of all of her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and Philips spanning 55 years from 1959 to 2014 – perhaps the single greatest collection of recorded classical piano music in history. It’s astounding.
The most remarkable pianist of her generation – Russian-born Olga Scheps, who was raised and resides in Germany – has continued this year to develop her repertoire and career in surprising directions. I first wrote about Olga nearly a year ago, upon the release of Vocalise, her fifth CD for Sony. That article – Meet Olga Scheps – includes biographical notes, links to some videos of her performances, and an overview of her discography.
The last year has been busy for Olga – in addition to her concertizing, she has just released another disc – so I decided to write a review of some of her recent activities, and about her new recording, Satie.
Olga Scheps seems poised to take on the world. A young pianist with extraordinary powers of expression, Olga has been enchanting audiences throughout Europe for several years but seems to be little known in the United States, or in the general English-speaking world. From what I have been able to learn, she has only appeared once in the U.S. – two performances of Liszt’s Concerto No. 2 with the San Antonio Symphony in 2012 – but from the pace of her concertizing and recording for the last few years, it seems like it will just be a matter of time before she begins to make similar strong impressions on music lovers on this side of the Atlantic. In 2015 alone so far Olga has performed either solo recitals or as concerto soloist with orchestras throughout Germany where she lives, in Spain, Wales, and Japan, and made debuts in Israel and Sweden. She records exclusively for Sony and has produced five CDs in the last six years – four solo recital discs and a luminous, touching recording of both Chopin concerti with Matthias Foremny and the Stuttgart Kammerorchester released in 2014. Her latest recording – Vocalise – was released in Germany on July 17.
Olga’s repertoire is a balanced combination of the very familiar (read: warhorses) and the seldom performed, and she brings to everything she plays a deeply considered emotional sensitivity to the impulses that drive the music. Although it is clear that she has the technical prowess and sheer muscle to pull off the grandest effects called for in the many masterpieces in her repertoire, it is the beautiful clarity of her approach to playing the piano and her attention to subtle details of expression which I find most remarkable.