Friday, January 23, 2009

The day Martha Argerich was locked up


The Rostropovich concert was of special interest to me, since it was very hard to get him to the Proms: as his fee had become so enormous, it was only within the planning of a very clever operation like the European Community Youth Orchestra tour that it could be made to work. But I was alarmed when Mrs Bryer suggested that Martha Argerich might be the soloist. I was assured that, given her close relationship with Rostropovich, she would certainly turn up. When the day came, I was telephoned to say she had at least played in Brussels the previous night, and had arrived in London. She did not, however, attend the rehearsal in the afternoon, deciding instead to go for a walk in the park. When I arrived at the hall as usual at about 6.30, I heard the piano in the Artist’s Room being put through its paces with unmistakable effect. I heaved a sigh of relief, and quietly let myself into the room.

I had not seen Martha for several years, but she greeted me as an old friend and asked what time the concert began. I told her it was 7.30. ‘No,’ she said, ’I am absolutely certain it is eight o’clock. I am very hungry; I need to go and eat something.’ I pointed out that by eight o’clock she would have played the concerto and would be free to eat for the rest of the evening. 'I don’t believe you,’ she said - ’I know it doesn’t start till eight.’ I excused myself, found two security guards, locked the door to the Artists’ Room, and said, ‘In no circumstances whatsoever is she to be allowed to leave the room.’ She banged on the door for a bit, but at 7.30 sharp she went out and gave one of the most brilliant performances of the Prokofiev Third Concerto I had ever heard. Such genius, and such a lack of professional discipline!
From John Drummond’s autobiography Tainted By Experience (Faber ISBN 0571200540). Cancellations are the concert promoters nightmare, read more here.

Header image comes via Robert Parson at University of Colorado, who has a computer called Argerich. I hope he keeps it locked up. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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