Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Today, music is her passion to celebrate World Piano Day by traveling back in time through the interesting life of an amazingly empowered woman, and world-renowned pianist: Martha Argerich.
Born to Argentinian parents, and also born in the country at the top of the American continent, Martha Argerich considers music her mother tongue since childhood. Her very natural phrasing allows her to represent music above and beyond performing it. She never tried to cultivate an image like the legend of the classical music world that she is, at least not in conventional terms. However, she is considered one of the most important pianists of the time.
Consciously or unconsciously, if music is your passion, no matter how old you are, in order to do a quality job, the musical style you want to go through must be chosen, studied, and learned as mandatory knowledge. As an interpreter, in order to capture not only the attention but also gain the admiration of the listener, you have to immerse yourself in a story, an era, a style, so that the message to be transmitted is clear and of high quality. Knowledge and skill are strictly fundamental, going hand in hand with intelligence, a factor with which one can be born, but nevertheless, it is important to recognize that educational training is a key piece so that this mental faculty continues to develop throughout your life, then experience and context, will serve as very important qualities for the development of intelligence.
It was at the age of six that she had her first musical epiphany.
Buenos Aires, 1947. Martha Argerich's childhood was not comparable to the childhood of other children within the Argentinian families at the time. Her life was not similar to her schoolmates, or her neighbors, but Martha knew from a very young age what her true passion was. Her spiritual and professional connection to music was born before she knew how to tie her own shoelaces. Homeschooled by her father, and encouraged by her mother, Martha Argerich showed her musical talent early on. She frequented classical music concerts with her mother, Jeanne Heller, something perhaps unconventional for a child of that age. It was at the age of six that she had her first musical epiphany. "It was Beethoven's fourth piano concerto played by Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, I was falling asleep and suddenly I felt a chill, something like an electric shock" with that confession about what is perhaps the most lasting memory of her childhood, begins Evening Talks (2002), a documentary that achieves the impossible for many, approaching Martha Argerich and reviewing the most important moments of her life, told by her in the first person, no less.
"She may have been 6 years old, but her soul was 40".
"She may have been 6 years old, but her soul was 40", this is how Vincenzo Scaramuzza, a formidable Italian pianist trained at the Naples Conservatory, described her. Martha had learned intensely and laid the foundations of her cantabile style under his mentorship. Perfectionist, daring, intelligent, are just some of the female factors that Martha developed during her adulthood. At age 9, before playing a Mozart concert, she got down on one knee and thought, "if I play a wrong note, I'll die". That thrive for perfection stayed with her.
On November 26, 1952, at the age of 11, Martha Argerich sat down at the piano of the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires (chosen as the most important theatre in the world in 2018), together with the City Symphony Orchestra, performing Schumann's Piano Concerto.
Her talent was unprecedented. Since then, Martha already knew that she wanted to study with the Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda.
At the age of 16, she won the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Italy and the Geneva International Music Competition.
The following year, her mother requested an interview with the then president of Argentina, Juan Domingo Perón, in order to position Martha within a higher social and political category event within the country or get her a scholarship to study in the United States, but that was not what the girl wanted. After Perón's question and what would you like?, she immediately responded: "I want to travel to Vienna, to study with Friedrich Gulda". A few months later, Juan Perón got a job for his parents at the country's embassy in Vienna, and the family moved when Martha was 13 years old. For 18 months, she lived her goal and studied with Gulda, who to this day remains an important influence in her musical development. Four years later, her career exploded. In 1957, at the age of 16, she won two important piano competitions worldwide, the "Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition" in Bolzano, Italy and the "Geneva International Music Competition" - both within a few weeks of each other.
But Martha didn't stop being a teenager with teenage feelings. Her sped-up childhood, the recognitions, the trips, the victories, all generated in her a crisis of loneliness. "Sometimes I was in a terrible panic" she describes her first cancellation of a recital at 17 in Florence. It wasn't bad, she says, but she didn't want to play, so she sent a telegram to the concert organizers saying she had hurt her finger, then took a knife and cut her finger, so "it would be true“.
When she was 20 years, old she moved to New York, confessing that she spent many nights just watching TV. Soon after, she met and married the composer and director Robert Chen with whom she later had her first daughter: the now renowned Swiss violinist Lyda Chen Argerich. During that period, Martha stayed away from the competitions and the demanding routine she was used to as a child.
It wasn't until 1965, with the help of pianist Stefan Askenase, that she again focused on her music and won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.
"Martha Argerich is like a beautiful painting without a frame".
Martha Argerich is a woman who, from a very young age, knew how to settle down and grow in every place she visited, or every city she lived in and knew from the beginning how to surround herself with great masters of the classical genre. Together with colleague and friend, conductor Daniel Barenboim, she represents the exact definition of "equality in music"; complicity, respect, understanding, and admiration are some of the equality factors that this pair of talented keyboard rebels possess." Martha Argerich is like a beautiful painting without a frame”, is how Barenboim described her. Martha and Daniel have known each other for seven decades since both were child prodigies in their home country, Argentina."There was a house in Buenos Aires, owned by a former violinist, where chamber music was played every Friday. All the great musicians who came to Argentina: Adolph Busch, Igor Markevitch, Sergiu Celibidache, could be found there. That's where I met Martha. I was seven years old, she was eight. We played together under the piano. I hardly knew anyone for so long. As kids we didn't talk about music, we were just normal kids". Barenboim said in an interview.
We are both pianists, but we don't see ourselves as competitors.
They have played together all over the world, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, London, Munich, among other major cities in terms of classical music. However, perhaps the most nostalgic project that the Argentinean pianists starred in was the series they presented at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires in 2014, together with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under the direction of Barenboim. It was a program traveling through three centuries of music, ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Ravel.
"Her real problem is with music critics. She can't stand them".
Stéphanie Kovacevich Argerich.
Interviewing Martha Argerich is something very few have achieved since the pianist has often voiced her dislike for the format’s formality." Interviews block it out because it's not spontaneous. Why talk to a journalist you don't have an affinity with? She doesn't like that. But her real problem is with music critics. She can't stand them" confessed her daughter, Stéphanie Kovacevich, thanks to whom, we were able to know the mother through the daughter's eyes.
Bloody Daughter (2012) is a family documentary that makes harsh confessions about their family ties, blends intimate conversations, agreements, and disagreements show the ups and downs of living with a legend, and exposes strong testimonies of their family ties, including the loss of custody of their first daughter Lyda because she was unable to take care of her. The production‘s footage was captured over two decades all over the world: Warsaw, where Martha won the first Chopin Prize; Japan, where Argerich has its own festival; London, where pianist Stephen Kovacevich (Stéphanie's father) lives and works; Belgium, where Martha lives in a house full of pianos and cats; Argentina, her native country, where beyond no having lived there as an adult, she still hides valuable family treasures; and finally Switzerland, where Stéphanie and her sister Lyda currently live.
Martha Argerich's three daughters are the fruits of love, brought to life by music: Lyda Chen Argerich is the daughter of Chen Liang Sheng Swiss-Chinese conductor, Annie Dutoit, daughter of the famous Swiss violinist and conductor Charles Dutoit and Stéphanie Argerich is the daughter of the pianist Stephen Kovacevich.
Martha Argerich was conferred Kennedy Centre Honors by President Obama on 4 December 2016.
December 2016: "I don't understand, why, I think I haven't done much in the United States" confessed Argerich, then being chosen to be awarded the Kennedy Center honors by President Obama. Not much, that is, apart from appearing with most of the major orchestras in the country: the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, other American orchestral appearances that included a concert with Mstislav Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra."Was my daughter, my daughter was very insistent. And then, Itzhak Perlman (a famous violinist) called me on the phone and said, 'You know, it's a lot of fun. And then I looked at some people who had received that, and then, of course, I was very honored" she confessed in an interview.
Many musicians of the classical genre live a life focused on the discipline of music, she, on the contrary, seems to have shifted her focus. Martha is a person with superhuman gifts who tries in her own way to find a way to live a normal life.
Her life is an eternal piece of music, where the factors of equality are part of her artistic essence. Every important man in her life, both on a personal and artistic level, has been an important piece in Argerich's formation and result in a confident, firm, empowered woman. That being said - her talent, grace, and impact never needed a fellow famous musician to do its magic and make history. She did that all by herself.