Early life and education
21-year-old Martha Argerich in 1962
Argerich was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her paternal ancestors were Spaniards Catalans based in Buenos Aires since the 18th century. Her maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, who settled in Colonia Villa Clara in the Entre Ríos province—one of the colonies established by Baron de Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association. The provenance of the name Argerich is Catalonia, Spain. She started playing the piano at age three. At the age of five, she moved to teacher Vincenzo Scaramuzza, who stressed to her the importance of lyricism and feeling. Argerich gave her debut concert in 1949 at the age of eight.
The family moved to Europe in 1955, where Argerich studied with Friedrich Gulda in Austria. Juan Perón, then the president of Argentina, made their decision possible by appointing her parents to diplomatic posts in the
Argentine Embassy in Vienna. She later studied with Stefan Askenase and Maria Curcio. Argerich also seized opportunities for brief periods of coaching with Madeleine Lipatti (widow of Dinu Lipatti), Abbey Simon, and Nikita Magaloff. In 1957, at sixteen, she won both the Geneva International Music Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition within three weeks of each other. It was at the latter that she met Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, whom she would later seek out for lessons during a personal artistic crisis at the age of twenty, though she only had four lessons with him in a year and a half. Her greatest influence was Gulda, with whom she studied for 18 months.