Schubert: Piano Sonata in E, D157; Piano Sonata in G, D894; Der Müller und der Bach (transcr. Liszt)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E, D157; Piano Sonata in G, D894; Der Müller und der Bach (transcr. Liszt)
PERFORMER: Arcadi Volodos (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89647
Arcadi Volodos is a variable pianist: he can play like an angel and he can play like an insensitive brute. Here he plays like an angel. The sound he makes is extraordinary – rich, rounded and extremely refined throughout a huge range of dynamics, with endless gradations at the quieter levels. The main attraction on this disc is Schubert’s long G major Sonata, which is extremely difficult to sustain. The most difficult movement is the first, which Sviatoslav Richter used to play perversely slowly. Volodos doesn’t, but creates the feeling of water lapping gently on the surface. There’s just a hint of mannerism in the way he shapes the rhythm of the first theme, but then he is what some would call a ‘pianist’s pianist’, and Russian-trained. We haven’t heard Volodos enough to know really what kind of musician he is, how far-reaching his understanding of the repertoire. But in the case of Mitsuko Uchida, we do know, and she creates a feeling in this first movement which is more sober and at the same time deeper, less concerned with superficial allure. Oddly enough, in the second movement, Volodos leaves out the ornamental turns in the right hand which Uchida includes. I confess I don’t miss them, because they are tricky, and, like a lot of Beethoven’s ornaments, they are hard not to make clumsy on a modern piano.

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The unfinished E major Sonata has a lovely second movement but is otherwise a duckling trying to be a swan. Adrian Jack