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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Franz Liszt - Volodos plays Liszt


Composer: Franz Liszt
  1. Vallée d'Obermann (Années de pèlerinage, Première année - Suisse, S 160 No. 6)
  2. Il Penseroso (Années de pèlerinage, Deuximère année - Italie, S 161 No. 2)
  3. St François d'Assise - La prédication aux oiseaux (Légendes, S. 175 No. 1)
  4. Bagatelle ohne Tonart, S 216a
  5. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 (version by Arcadi Volodos)
  6. Sposalizio (Années de pèlerinage, Deuximère année - Italie, S 161 No. 1)
  7. "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen", prelude in F minor after Bach, S 179
  8. Funérailles ((Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S 173 No. 7)
  9. La lugubre gondola No. 2, S 200ii
  10. En rêve - Nocturne, S 207

Arcadi Volodos, piano
Date: 2007
Label: Sony Classical



The virtuoso and the visionary sit side by side in a spell-binding collection

Arcadi Volodos makes such infrequent visits to the recording studio that rarity value manufactures an extra frisson of anticipation with each new release. Has it been worth the wait? The Liszt programme he has chosen alternates the virtuoso with the visionary in a series of stark, self-conscious contrasts.

With the bleak late works a personal blind spot and having never been convinced by the maudlin effusion of St Francis preaching to his twittering birds, I must confess that the quite magical rubato and sheer beauty of sound that Volodos produces – the variety of colours, the richly cushioned tone at all dynamic levels – have been more than enough to make me think again. Listen, too, to Sposalizio from 4'44" (dolce armonioso). Here is keyboard poetry of rare distinction. To hear the instrument sound like this is simply a joy.

But of course there is another side to Volodos and, having once stood next to him as he played his famous Rondo alla turca transcription, it is one that cannot fail to thrill. Possessing one of the greatest mechanisms of any living pianist it would be perverse of him not to flaunt it, and he does not disappoint. In the final peroration of Vallée d’Obermann, Volodos not only equals Horowitz’s demonic ferocity but adds seemingly impossible difficulties of his own. The accelerando he makes in the final cavalry-charge octave passage of Funérailles is electrifying but even these pale beside his Cziffra-inspired arrangement of the Hungarian Rhapsody No 13, the friska section ranking among the most staggering feats of pianistic legerdemain on record. A great pianist and a great recording.

-- Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Arcadi Volodos (born 24 February 1972 in Leningrad) is a Russian pianist. Though he had played the piano from the age of eight, he did not devote himself to serious study of the instrument until 1987. Volodos studied with Galina Eguiazarova in Moscow, Jacques Rouvier in Paris and Dimitri Bashkirov in Madrid. Despite the relative brevity of his formal studies, Volodos, as described by  multiple Grammy Award-winning classical music producer Thomas Frost, "has everything: imagination, colour, passion and a phenomenal technique to carry out his ideas".


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