Arthur Rubinstein once described Brahms late period piano pieces as chamber music for a solo pianist. In the stunning hands of Arcadi Volodos, one might extend the analogy to include a highly responsive chamber orchestra collaborating with a world-class lieder singer. What gorgeously burnished and variegated sonorities Volodos elicits from the concert grand! More importantly, the deep musicality informing every touch of rubato and each shift in color or voicing is such that Volodos’ generally broad tempos never, but never drag.
In Op. 76, No. 1’s imitative writing gains intensity through timbral variety more thanRead more mere changes in volume, while the once-ubiquitous No. 2 acquires novel dimension with the tenor voice to the fore. At Volodos’ deliberate pace, No. 3’s high register music box-like writing gains infinite nuance, plus a sadder exterior than you’d expect. Notice, too, No. 4’s hypnotic legato and the sense of air in repeated notes that often sound too pushed for comfort.
Op. 117’s three Intermezzos similarly showcase the rarified heights to which Volodos’ poetic instincts can operate without losing tension. My only half-quibble concerns Op. 117 No. 1’s central minor key episode, where the slow basic tempo threatens to dissipate the rhythmic definition of Brahms’ hemiolas, despite Volodos’ extraordinary concentration and sustaining power. Here I prefer Emanuel Ax’s more conventional pacing and directness.
Op. 118, however, abounds with revelations. Strategic breath pauses and unusual accents minimize No. 1’s square and Teutonic nature, while No. 2’s phrase shapes seem vocally oriented, notably concerning the extra wiggle room in wide interval leaps. Note, too, Volodos’ pinpointed articulation of No. 3’s middle voices (no perfunctory accompaniment here), and the unusual conversational quality between the hands that he brings to No. 4’s triplet patterns. The tickling allure of No. 5’s rapid figurations and trills and the mesmerizing tonal variety of No. 6’s fragile lines alone attest to how Volodos has quietly raised the expressive bar for prospective interpreters of these works.
Yes, there was room for Op. 76’s remaining four pieces, and it would have been logical to include them, at least from a marketing standpoint. But why nitpick when the overall level of artistry is so high? Volodos does not record so often as a pianist of his stature should; yet with each release he further enhances his legacy and enriches our spirits.
Gifted PlayingDecember 6, 2017By M. Bishop (Clackamas, OR)See All My Reviews"Arcadi Volodos does a good job of performing the piano works of Brahms on this album. The 55-minute recital starts out with Volodos playing Capriccio in F Sharp Minor; he performs the piece well. Track 2 is a convincing performance of Capriccio in B Minor; Volodos demonstrates a light touch to the keyboard as he moves through the number. There is also some virtuosic playing during this number as well. I would say that the sound quality is superb; the beautiful sound of the Steinway & Sons piano comes through clearly. Volodos rendition of Sechs Klavierstucke, Opus 118, compares favorably with the same numbers as performed by Murray Perahia. I highly recommend this album to those seeking a sampling of Brahms best piano music."Report Abuse