Performer: Arcadi Volodos
Composer: Franz Liszt
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Size: 201 MB
01. Années de pèlerinage I – Suisse, S 160; No. 6 La vallée d’Obermann
02. Années de pèlerinage II – Italie, S. 161; No. 2 Il penseroso
03. St François d’Assise, S. 175; No. 1 La prédication aux oiseaux
04. Bagatelle sans tonalité, S. 216a
05. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13, S. 244/13
06. Années de pèlerinage II – Italie, S. 161; No. 1 Sposalizio
07. Prelude in F minor after Bach “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”, S. 179
08. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173; No. 7 Les Funérailles
09. La lugubre gondola (Trauergondel) No. 2, S. 200/2
10. En rêve (Nocturne), S. 207
Arkady Volodos plays the solo piano music of Franz Liszt found here with an emphasis on color and sensitivity and nuance. He starts off with the “Val d’Obermann”, from the First Year of Pilgrimage, an ambitious composition that I have found over the years is susceptible to radically different interpretations. Volodos’ vision of “Val” is coloristically precise, with more emphasis on the polyphonic lines weaving through the textures, very different from performances which, to mention some options, emphasize the piece’s reliance on a small set of chord shifts or more emotion-centric ones that focus on the work’s depression and sense of tragedy. The emphasis on the color allows for the climactic passage towards the end (about 10’ into track 1) to be especially vivid and rich as done by Volodos.
Volodos has an absolutely marvelous control of the exact weight and pressure applied by his hands. The “micro-control” of each note is at times astonishing. An austere late piece written to commemorate the death of Richard Wagner, the “Lugubre Gondole I” (track 9) benefits from Volodos’ ability to shape the slow-moving lines with subtle dynamic variations within the individual melody. This style of performance doesn’t just benefit some of the more atmospheric numbers. The “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” Prelude, a delicious example of mid-romantic Bach-iana, is given a fine performance, the individual lines differentiated coloristically so as to fully bring out the music’s polyphonic conception.
This emphasis on preciousness and color and detail can de-energize the music, almost as an automatic by-product. So Volodos’ Liszt isn’t fiery or wild, two adjectives commonly associated with the composer. The 13th Hungarian Rhapsody (track 5) is likely the least successful track here. It is tamed and Liszt the demonic Magyar begins to turn into the sensuous sonneteer. Volodos manages to project more energy in the final ostinato build-up from “Funerailles” (track 8), so the 13th Rhapsody seems more flawed than it should, even given Volodos’ approach.
Overall the performance is outstanding, original and shows yet again that Volodos is a world-class musician, even disregarding his phenomenal piano chops. I have highlighted certain tracks so far but others, such as the “Il pensoroso” (track 2) and the wonderful “En reve” (track 10), are very effective. Audiophiles have been entranced by the sound engineering job given Volodos by Sony. I found the sound on this disc too reverberant but very detailed during the cleaner passages. All in all, this is a terrific Liszt recital that I know I will be pulling out for decades to come. Warmly recommended.