Arcadi Volodos recital

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Arcadi Volodos recital

Post by Elpenor » Wed May 23, 2012 11:36 am

This is my first post in the reviews forum - I'll mostly be writing about impressions from concerts I attend in London. The Arcadi Volodos recital was at the Royal Festival Hall and the programme was as follows:

Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Minor, D784
Brahms: 3 Intermezzi, op. 117
Liszt: Piano Sonata

I was really looking forward to this - this was the first time I recall Volodos coming to London (when I'm available at least). Given his towering Schubert D894, I would've thought him ideal for the A Minor (probably the bleakest Schubert Sonata?), but it was ever so slightly aloof. He seemed to be holding back in the big chordal passages in the first movement, and the playing as a result was underwhelming. He was at his best in the slow movement, which was beautifully sung. The last movement was better than the first, but again - when this Sonata should have a chilling effect, the predominant one was that of indifference, like he was holding back again.*

The Brahms was much better, and gave me the impression that, for all his reputation as a fearless virtuoso, Volodos really is happier playing soft, songful pieces that require a good control of the different tonal shadings of pianissimo. All three pieces were ravishing - very atmospheric, made me forget I was in a big 'impersonal' space like the RFH (impersonal for something as intimate as a piano recital that is).

The highlight was the Liszt Sonata, a piece I hadn't managed to catch live before. Volodos took Richter's advice apparently ('I sit down, and I don't move a muscle. In my head I count up to thirty, very slowly. This causes panic in the audience ... Then, and only then, I play the bottom G.'). Volodos too waited what seemed like an eternity before starting, his hands hovering over the keys in anticipation. This did create an unusual kind of silence - but as soon as he started, so did the audience start unwrapping sweets. Why they couldn't do it before he started (it must've been more than a minute between him coming on stage and starting to play) is beyond me.

Volodos's playing, however, was exceptional - it took him a while to get going, after an opening section too sectionalised by pauses and rubato, but once he got going, it was amazing. Again, even though the pyrotechnics and virtuoso passages were easily within his grasp, it seemed to me that he was more comfortable in the Quasi adagio and its hushed tones. Indeed, only Hamelin (in his recording) has achieved a more beautiful variation of soft sounds in this passage. After Volodos's holding back in the Schubert Sonata, he unleashed all his power in the fugato and the following passages of the Liszt in a truly visceral way. All undeniably exciting (a touch sectionalised perhaps, but it's a live concert after all), and it set up the stage beautifully for the quiet ending. A great Liszt Sonata in my opinion.

He played no fewer than four encores, of which I only recognised Liszt's En Reve. The others sounded like transcriptions (possibly by Volodos himself?). I wish he did recordings more often, he's clearly a unique voice among pianists.

*Sure, a fortissimo in Schubert shouldn't sound the same as a fortissimo in Liszt, and perhaps it was this effect he was trying to underline. But still, the Schubert Sonata passed by without making the impression it should've made.

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Re: Arcadi Volodos recital

Post by Ricordanza » Thu May 24, 2012 8:55 pm

Welcome to the reviews forum, Elpenor. A wonderful review of the Volodos recital.

I've heard Volodos in a concerto performance (Prokofiev No. 2) but have not had the good fortune of hearing this outstanding pianist in a solo recital.

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