Martha Argerich and Eroticism in Music

Martha Argerich — Warner Classics CD Cover

I was seated at the piano talking to a friend about Scriabin’s 4th sonata when I casually said: “the first movement is one of the greatest examples of eroticism in music, no?”

He was astonished for a second and look at me as though I have not learnt the proper meaning of the word “erotic”. I insisted with such conviction: “Yes! Erotic! Even lustful…”

We spent the rest of the conversation looking at the score and wondering about Scriabin’s markings for this piece (and all of his pieces in general). For the 4th sonata, Scriabin marks the first movement with a “con voglia” indication which translates to “with lust”.

How do you play an inanimate object (in this case the piano) with lust?

Probably, just as how you would create a crescendo from just a single note at the piano. That is, through the illusion of creating a crescendo. In other words, by listening.

If you hear the erotic in music, you play the erotic in music. I go one step further … you become the erotic in music.

Scriabin’s 4th is erotic, Ravel’s Ondine is erotic, the slow section of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz is sinfully erotic… I can go on and on with examples that evoke eroticism in music.

Today, I came across this video of Martha Argerich giving a masterclass on Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto! The video is posted on my instagram page and is taken from the absolutely marvelous YouTube channel by the name Charles Couineau.

I want to have this exchange with you, dear readers. Have you ever thought about this subject in regards to music? Do you think music can be even qualified as erotic? If so, what pieces have you heard that evoked this notion in your listening experience?

I am completely astonished by the notion of eroticism and sublimity in music and I would love to get a free exchange on this topic going in the comments section of this post.

I promise to have many more open conversations like these to come.

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Pianist — Classical Music Geek

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