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For the most part Arcadi Volodos’ recital from the Musikverein Wien on March 1, 2009 is about sensuality and tone painting, as aptly demonstrated by the four short Scriabin works that open the program. He plays the Op. 11 No. 16 Prélude (slow unison octaves that quote Chopin’s Op. 35 Marche Funebre) slowly, freely, and colorfully. Tonal allure abounds throughout the Scriabin Seventh sonata, together with Volodos’ careful attention to the composer’s specific expressive intentions, from “avec trouble” to “joyeux” and the like. A strong, purposeful intent informs the pianist’s affetuoso touches in Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales: for example, the first movement’s italicizations, the fifth movement’s lingerings, and the humorous lope he brings to the sixth’s ascending three-note motive.

However, the real Volodos magic happens in the recital’s second half, beginning with one of the most ravishing performances of Schumann’s Waldszenen I’ve encountered since Richter’s reference 1956 studio recording. The meltingly appropriate rubato and tonal inflections in the first piece’s opening bars signify that we’re in for a special event. Jäger auf der Lauer’s cannily gauged detached chords, unflappable rapid unison runs, and rhythmically vivacious central section take your breath away, as does Volodos’ creamy, non-pedaled legato touch in Einsame Blumen. The pianist paces Verrufene Stelle slowly and articulates the dotted rhythms in multi-leveled dynamic plateaus that suggest the aural equivalent of three-dimensional chess. Vogel als prophet lingers in the ear long after the little bird flies away, on account of Volodos’ unerring timing and proportioned tempo fluctuations.

Volodos’ considerable resources as a colorist, plus his innate affinity for Liszt’s sweeping rhetoric and “piano as orchestra” sound world, breathe vibrant, theatrical life into the Dante Sonata, which often sounds like an endless octave etude. Actually, the work ought to be credited to Liszt/Volodos, for the pianist considerably elaborates upon Liszt’s original text. Three lyrical encores provide gentle decompression for an obviously enthralled audience and hopefully for home listeners. The slightly distant yet warm sonics accurately reflect what Volodos sounds like from choice seats in a world-class concert venue. [4/14/2010]

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this collection

ALEXANDER SCRIABIN - Préludes Op. 37 No. 1 & Op. 11 No. 16; Dance languide Op. 51 No. 4; Guirlandes Op. 73; Piano Sonata No. 7 Op. 64; Feuille d’album Op. 45 No. 1
MAURICE RAVEL - Valses nobles et sentimentales
ROBERT SCHUMANN - Waldszenen Op. 82
FRANZ LISZT - Dante Sonata
J.S. BACH - Sicilienne (after Vivaldi)
PETER TCHAIKOVSKY - Lullaby in a Storm (arr. Volodos)

  • Soloists: Arcadi Volodos (piano)

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