Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op.23 * Rachmaninov
Mélodie in E, Op.3/3
Moment Musical in E flat minor, Op.16/2
Prelude in G flat, Op.23/10
Prelude in G, Op.32/5 Rachmaninov/Volodos
Concert Paraphrase on Polka italienne
Arcadi Volodos (piano)
Seiji Ozawa *
Concerto recorded live in the Philharmonie, Berlin in June 2002; solo works recorded in April 2003 at the Scoring Stage, Berlin
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL SH 93067 (CD/SACD) Duration: Reviewed: February 2004
Volodos Tchaikovsky No.1 (Sony)
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Mixed feelings about this one, not least the famous opening of the Tchaikovsky the Berlin horns are more snarling than golden, and Volodos does a caricature of a barnstorming virtuoso. There are moments throughout when one recoils at the pianists brazen attack.
Yet, there is no doubting that Volodos has a quite remarkable technical facility one listens open-mouthed at some of his accomplishment. And its not all in your face Volodos does have a range of dynamics, he can play intimately and tenderly, he can accommodate and dialogue with the orchestra (Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic lively and co-operative), and he can produce the most rounded tone and lyrically curving phrases. Yet its Volodoss sheer wizardry that is the most memorable feature not always fondly remembered, for there is an element of calculation, the notes sometimes no more than a vehicle for display.
Its a shame that the booklet fails to record each tracks timing. You might like to know that the concertos three movements breeze by as follows: 1915, 640, and (excluding applause) 620.
In the 20 minutes of solo works, theres no doubting (again) the sorcery at work, and one recognises, sometimes with gratification, that Volodos is a pianist with an appreciation of past masters in terms of flexibility and individuality, save that such things have to be intrinsic rather than applied. Volodos isnt above effecting things. The rippling delicacy of the G major Prelude (Op.32/5) is breathtaking in its quietude; yet, even here, a lurching of dynamics reminds of less likeable features of Volodoss playing, such as in the Oriental Sketch, which thunders, the treble at the close pinging and the sustaining pedal inflating the texture.
Volodoss finger-twisting and foot-tapping arrangement is a piece of frippery, not without wit; it raises the spirits until at the end Volodos cant resist a full-frontal assault on the eardrums. As I said: mixed feelings.
The sound is tangible and well-balanced in the concerto, and more spacious in the solo pieces; theres not much between the CD and SACD (2-channel) formats, the latter being slightly freer and warmer.