Why I love Martha Argerich so much. (Part One)

Why I love Martha Argerich so much. (Part One)

It is no secret that I deeply love Martha Argerich. I can perfectly recall the very first time I heard of Martha: I was seven-years old and, during a lesson, my piano teacher showed me the Deutsche Gramophone recording of Chopin Preludes he bought the day after. He was so enthusiastic about it! He showed me the picture of the performer: a beautiful woman with an enchanting gaze. Her name was Martha Argerich. I started begging my father to buy more recordings of Martha… the more I listened to her playing, the more I fell in love with her beautiful yet powerful sense of music. It was 1987.

In winter 2001 I was a student at Lake Como Piano Academy. I became friend with a great cuban pianist, Mauricio Vallina. He was a great friend of Martha Argerich and he invited me to assist Martha’s performance of Schumann piano concerto at Tonhalle, in Zurich. I took a train with my friend Davide Cabassi and, finally, I managed to listen to Martha live. I was blown away! Next day I spent an afternoon with Martha at Mauricio’s place in Zurich. I found amazing that such a powerful pianist was actually a rather shy person, extremely kind and interesting. But the most incredible thing was that special aura that she emanated. We spent the evening speaking of astrology, music and telling jokes. When I left, I was so sad to being unable to spend more time with her…

It was spring 2003. My friend Davide Cabassi called me:

- “Hey Gabry, there is something that I am sure you’ll be interested about!”

- “Tell me, Davide…”

- “There will be another Martha Argerich Piano Competition in Buenos Aires. I am sure you could do well there!”

- “Well… I really don’t know… I’ll see…”

Guess what? I made a video, as requested by the application, and sent it to Buenos Aires. Some weeks later I discovered I was accepted!

I wasn’t so ready for a competition… I never really liked competing and I was working on a lot of different piano repertoire with my teachers at Como. But I would never refuse such an opportunity, so I bought my flight and left.

I arrived in Buenos Aires and I found a very sad situation: the country had the most horrible economic crisis of its history and people really struggled hard to make a living. Still, I found argentineans very energetic, generous and lovely. I was in the taxi going from the airport to my hotel and I started speaking with the driver. He asked me what I was doing in Argentina and I told me about the competition. He looked at me: “Martha Argerich? Marthita? She is our national hero! Tell her I love her!”. I was moved…

The competition began. Martha was in the jury, as well as Gyorgy Sandor, Akiko Ebi, Eduardo Delgado and Alexis Golovine. I played my first round in the beautiful Teatro Colon and I managed to survive the incredible emotion and to give an ok performance. I was admitted to the second round, where I gave my best performance of the whole contest. When they announced that I was admitted to the first final round (chamber music), I was the happiest person of the world… I couldn’t believe that I would get so far, at HER competition!

I played Shostakovich Trio and I thought I gave a nice performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass to the very last round of the competition.

After the competition was over, Martha received me and told me, with some disappointment, that somebody in the jury had voted against me for some reasons and she was really sorry about it. But she thought that my Chopin Ballade was really beautiful. And that was the most beautiful thing I could possibly hear… She didn’t want to leave me without a price so she gave me a Special Honorable Mention.

When I left Buenos Aires, I was again very sad because I made lots of friends in Argentina (and I’m still in touch with most of them) but especially because I didn’t know IF and WHEN I would be able to see Martha again.

I returned to Italy and I eventually went back to my usual life. I was still a student and I had some little concerts here and there, but definitely nothing that would allow me to make a living with playing piano. I kept Martha’s compliment as a wonderful memory but I was not in touch with her, I didn’t want to be invasive and I didn’t even ask for her phone number or her contact information. I felt I was still just a student… why would she possibly care about me?