Volodos in Vienna

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt,Ravel,Schumann,Scriabin
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales; Schumann: Waldszenen; Liszt: Dante Sonata; Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 7 etc
PERFORMER: Arcadi Volodos (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697568872

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Arcadi Volodos is a throwback to an earlier age of magisterial virtuosos, such as Josef Hofmann or Josef Lhévinne, whose playing had a particular kind of Olympian grandeur, to which different composing styles effectively had to conform.

To comment that every work in this remarkable recital is played in much the same way would be miss the point: the individual performances wouldn’t have the same kind of power if they were delivered differently. Scriabin’s one-dimensional idiom in no way prevents Volodos from finding in it a kind of haunted immensity that enthrals the ear.

His rich-toned, lushly pedalled way with Valses nobles et sentimentales bypasses the music’s succession of wry classical masks, searching out instead a sumptuous dream-world that has little to do with Ravel, but which mesmerises anyway – and which comes into its own in the authentic Romantic landscapes of Schumann’s Waldszenen, conjured with all the loveliness of the Volodos sound.

Liszt’s Dante Sonata raises a musical question of a different kind, since what’s played here is neither the composer’s final published score, nor one of its earlier drafts, but a paraphrased, even more fearsomely difficult version by – whom? Volodos himself? The booklet note doesn’t tell us.

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The performance is an awesome display of keyboard command even if, however magnificently, it isn’t what Liszt wrote. The recorded sound does gorgeous justice both to the playing itself, and to the surrounding Vienna Musikvereinsaal acoustic. Malcolm Hayes