Piano Sonata in A, D959; Minuet in A major, D334; Minuet in E major, D335; Minuet in C sharp minor, D600
Arcadi Volodos (piano)
Sony 19075868292 54:24 mins
Arcadi Volodos loves eluding the press – when I was commissioned by this magazine to interview him in Madrid, he almost gave me the slip – and everything he does seems counterintuitive, not least the path he’s taken so far. At ten he wanted to be a footballer: only when he was 16 did he yield to persuasion to take the piano seriously. In his 20s he became celebrated as a composer and performer of crazily virtuosic arrangements; in his 30s he swung hard in the opposite direction, championing Mompou.
Meanwhile he was developing a highly individual approach to Schubert, finding in his works a keyboard poetry no one had found before. For his latest recital in London he focused on Liszt and Schumann, but the most intriguing of his five encores was the little Minuet in C sharp minor which is the last piece on this new recording: a chorale with a staccato walking bass which first suggests Bach, before you realise its charming repetitions are teasingly pointing somewhere else.
The Sonata which is this disc’s pièce de résistance emerges in typically poetic guise; the first movement, delivered with a light touch, is delicately shaded as it skirts the abyss which follows in the Andantino. Many pianists play that Barcarole as though Schubert were railing against his fate, but in Volodos’s hands it proves as benignly fleeting as Prospero’s storm in The Tempest; the Scherzo is leisurely, the Rondo eloquent. The first two Minuets were Schubert’s teenage efforts; the third here becomes a game of competing pianissimos.