Born in Buenos Aires, Martha Argerich began learning the piano at the age of five with Vincenzo Scaramuzza. A child prodigy, she was soon giving concerts in public. She moved to Europe in 1955 to continue her studies in London, Vienna and Switzerland, with Friedrich Gulda, Nikita Magaloff, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Stefan Askenase. In 1957 she won the piano competitions in Bolzano and Geneva and, in 1965, the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Ever since, she has been regarded as one of the world’s finest pianists.
She is particularly highly regarded for her interpretations of the virtuoso piano literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her broad repertoire includes works by Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Franck, Liszt, Messiaen, Prokofiev, Ravel, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.
Martha Argerich is a regular guest with the most prestigious orchestras and festivals in Europe, Japan and the USA. She is also a dedicated chamber musician, playing and recording regularly with Nelson Freire, Ivry Gitlis, Mischa Maisky, Gidon Kremer and Daniel Barenboim: ‘being part of an ensemble is very soothing for me’.
In 1996 Martha Argerich was named Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government and became an Academician of Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1997. In 1998 she became artistic director of the Beppu Festival in Japan and created the International Piano Competition and the Festival Martha Argerich in Buenos Aires in 1999 and the Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano in 2002. In 2004 she was named Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. In 2005 she received the Order of the Rising Sun, awarded by the Emperor of Japan, and the prestigious Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association.
Many of her concerts have been broadcast on television around the world. Martha Argerich has recorded for EMI, Sony, Philips, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon and her recordings have won numerous awards. Her latest disc features Mozart’s 20th and 25th piano concertos, recorded with the Orchestra Mozart and Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon.
In 2000 Martha Argerich won several awards for her EMI recordings, including a Grammy for concertos by Bartók and Prokofiev, Gramophone artist of the year and best concerto recording for the Chopin concertos, Choc du Monde de la Musique for her Amsterdam recital and artist of the year from the German Record Critics. Musical America named Martha Argerich musician of the year in 2001.
In December 2016 Barack Obama awarded Martha Argerich the Kennedy Center Honor in a ceremony in Washington DC.