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Arcadi Volodos

  • Pianist


Arcadi Volodos press reviews

"Volodos plays [Schubert's G major sonata] with great dynamism, with relaxed and silvery chains of pearls. […] He emphasises the breaks in the piece. Volodos is not aiming at an overall concept. He focuses his attention on the breaks in the score, thus bringing out the affinity with Schumann's Humoreske op. 20 and the Faschingsschwank op. 26. The result is cleverly thought-out and cleverly played. Volodos used to be fond of thunderous effects, but nowadays he has no trouble rendering contrasts between delicacy and power. Thus he moulds the G major sonata into an organism that is divided within, that only finds peace at the end. [...] Schumann's Humoreske stands for laughter in the face of grief, with a hint of cynicism. Volodos plays the character pieces with lyrical discretion, offrering us moments of enchanting cantabile on the one hand and breathless haste and powerful beauty on the other."

 (WAZ, concert on 28.06.2010 Ruhr Piano Festival / Essen)

 "A recording of the Dante Sonata that can definitely claim reference status. None of the other readings I know has managed the symbiosis of virtuoso pomp and formal rigour as this live recording does. A tightrope walk in lofty heights."

(WAZ, 2010, "Volodos in Vienna")

"[…] optimum musical abilities […].Virtuoso playing technique and lyrical sensitivity are equally well developed in this artist. […] The secret of his art is both absolute dedication and integrity. [….] A brilliant recital in a class of its own."

(Piano News, 2010, "Volodos in Vienna")

„Volodos has firmly established himself as a truly spectacular virtuoso who possesses remarkable sensitivity, flair and colour. Although he has elected to concentrate on a relatively narrow choice of repertoire […], within that repertoire his mastery is complete. He is constantly alive to every subtlety of texture and phrasing while imparting logic and continuity to the musical argument. Furthermore, his pianistic equipment is such that all difficulties are not only conquered but cease to exist. […] Few pianists since Horowitz have displayed such a close identification with Scriabin`s idiom [….]. For the Ravel, he changes his outlook considerably, projecting the wistful nostalgia of the second and fifth waltzes with utter conviction and bathing his sonority in a subtle wash of pedal. Especially noteworthy is the epilogue [….] where Volodos evokes a tonally lustrous, timeless atmosphere. […] In the Waldszenen […] Volodos again displays an uncanny affinity for Schumann`s sound-world. […] as a whole Volodos magisterially reveals the essence of this sometimes elusive suite. After the Schumann we are immersed in the fire and brimstone of Liszt`s Dante Sonata. […] Three encores are included. […] Here he applies his ravishing tone to three quiet, reflective pieces that are the ideal foil to the turbulence of the Liszt tone-poem. The Tchaikovsky Lullaby […] is his newest transcription. He delivers it with typical imagination and finesse. [...] In sum, this disc is a pianistic feast of the first order. Sony and Volodos would do well to bring us more, and soon.”

(International Records Review, 2010, “Volodos in Vienna”)

"In the meantime Volodos has become a colossal keyboard star, a pianist who pays careful attention to the inner drama of his recital programmes… Volodos knows how to think his way, both in the Scriabin and in the other works that follow, into the composer's mindset and his colour world to such an extent that the listener is literally drawn into the music. He plays with great sensitivity, subtly balancing his touch and thus the dynamics and phrasing so that listening to him is a feast for the ears. In his hands Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales trip the light fantastic, while the Schumann Waldszenen turn into a clear statement of their composer's love of nature, with clear, slow tempi and a hushed sound palette. Not, however, at the expense of structure and sharp accentuation. The climactic finale is Liszt's Dante Sonata, which Volodos renders with such magic that one is all but swept away by the the diabolic whirlpool of the score. This is the work of a truly great pianist!"

(Piano News, 2010, CD "Volodos in Vienna")

"The programme opens with two preludes by Alexander Scriabin – friendly, almost a little stolid in tone. But all of a sudden, we find ourselves in sinister dimensions when Volodos makes the music almost give its last gasp by means of extreme pauses, or when a frightening level of aggression comes to the fore. [...] When a pianist has proven his merits as a master of the most subtle colouring as Volodos has with Scriabin, he naturally wants to demonstrate [...] his technical skills all the more in transcriptions. Thus he unleashes a musical thunderstorm in this case that no-one can escape. Franz Liszt had already raised the bar of technical challenge about as far as it would go, but Volodos still has to outdo him. And he succeeds – not a single note is smudged! The listener, at any rate, gets the impression of flawless precision. After all, no human ear can really check. [...] Volodos is an exceptional pianist. His skill and his passion cause any possible objections to pale into insignificance."

(NDR Kultur, 2010, CD “Volodos in Vienna”)

"There are plenty of good concert pianists around at the moment. But finding a truly exceptional genius takes a little longer… One artist who has played his way straight to the Olympus of piano virtuosi is Arcadi Volodos. The 37-year-old Russian pianist is highly regarded for his musical sensitivity and his poetic playing. […] Volodos brings out the contrasts in the works he performs in a manner nothing short of provocative. He shapes every single Schumann Waldszene into a characteristic little pearl. In the Ravel waltzes he remains reserved, almost sober. But the absolute highlight is Liszt's Dante Sonata. Here the Liszt expert pulls out all the stops. Whether he plays soft trills, mighty series of chords or acrobatic arpeggios – in this musical carnival Arcadi Volodos shows to impressive effect that he has the entire range of pianistic expression at his fingertips."

(RBB Kulturradio, 2010, CD of the week, "Volodos in Vienna")

"90 minutes of music that make you prick up your ears – and keep your eyes peeled as well! Intense concentration and great virtuosity alternate with passages of immense calm and lyricism that are heard and seen to most impressive effect in the first encore after Liszt's titanic Dante Sonata: the modest little Bach Siciliano arranged by Vivaldi. Since his 1997 début, Volodos has been one of the new generation of pianists who perform without any affectation, who have obviously understood the music they are playing and know that intellect is just as important a part of music-making as technique. […] Excellent."

Classical CD of the Month, music 5/5

(Audio 01/2010)

"…not only a gifted virtuoso, but a poet as well."
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2009 )

 "Music as if from another dimension. A technique that beggars description, gripping interpretation and a touch that lends every note the utmost colour and beauty."
(WAZ, 2009 )

 "There is hardly another pianist who transcends the sound of the piano to achieve immaterial colour so radically and with such refinement as Volodos… The work of an alchemist, where the piano sounded like all kinds of things – but not like a piano."
(FAZ, 2009 )

Sensitive lion: Pianist Arcadi Volodos casts his spell in the Prinzregententheater

Arcadi Volodos started his piano recital in Munich's Prinzregententheater with an exotic brand of Impressionist magic, though the Spanish composers Mompou and Albéniz are admittedly not exotic in geographic terms. The Scènes d"enfants by Catalan composer Federico Mompou (1893-1987) gave Volodos a chance to demonstrate his deep sensitivity for inspired nuance and for the subjectivity of the Late Romantic. And at the same time for unmistakably Spanish tone colour.

But he then showed his other side right away in the first of Albéniz' Cantos de España, better known in the guitar versions: here we experienced the Russian as a true keyboard lion, who turned playing the piano into a trapeze act with massive chords and breathtaking virtuosity. This same polarity was reflected by his readings of Schumann. Arcadi Volodos felt his way with immense sensitivity into the intimate pianissimo poetry and brooding pensiveness of the B flat Humoreske and the Faschingsschwank aus Wien, op. 26, in both of which they alternate with nervous frenzy. But he also seized every opportunity for Steinway thunderstorms and high-rev brilliance. This was an existential Schumann, more volcano than musical poet. The audience rewarded Volodos with waves of applause before settling down to three Bach encores, all elegance and stateliness.

(Süddeutsche Zeitung, concert 24.03.2010 München/Prinzregententheater)

Pianist Arcadi Volodos knows no technical limits

This is a man who makes the trickiest piano playing look like child's play. Arcadi Volodos apparently knows no technical limits. If our ears didn't deceive us, he even added a couple of octaves to the Spanish pieces in the first part of the recital in order to make things more difficult still.

Four pieces by Isaac Albéniz conjured up the atmosphere of old Spain with bells, processions and dancing gypsies. Volodos made the complex, fully-fingered scores float aloft as light as a feather. And for all the rhythmic finesse, he didn't forget to bring out the melancholy mourning for the last splendour of the past that this music, written around 1900 on the threshold of the modern era, exudes.

Volodos is particularly good at enigmatic mood kaleidoscopes, and this makes him an outstanding Schumann interpreter. In the endless rhapsody of the Humoreske he underlined the contrasts without losing sight of the bigger picture. The quiet and cheeky echo of the theme in the second section literally burnt itself into the listener's ear.

Then the fiery verve of Faschingsschwank aus Wien, which in Volodos's hands was nothing short of overwhelming. When the Russian pianist pulls out all the stops to achieve an orchestral effect at the end of this piece, one cannot help but be reminded of Tchaikovsky. In the harsh mix of melancholy and euphoria, however, he really is very much a kindred spirit to Schumann.

(Abendzeitung, concert  24.03.2010 Munich/Prinzregententheater)

"Even when the music was at its most technically demanding, Volodos never lost his feeling for poetry and transcendence. […] Volodos played almost without a break, dovetailing pieces, moods and forms into a gripping narrative, with the underlying 'programme' requiring a certain knowledge of the individual works.  As we know, Volodos isn't content with Liszt's already exorbitant demands on the performer: he enriched the Hungarian Rhapsody no.13 with his own brilliant effects, but without giving the listener any cause to accuse him of vanity. Here, it's fair to apply the motto "If you can do it, you can do it" – to the delight of his fans. One can't help but be amazed by such virtuosity, coupled with supreme technical mastery."
(Salzburger Nachrichten, concert on 28.07.09 at the Salzburg Festival)

"He has often been called an acrobat of the keyboard, a musical circus lion. But on this occasion, too, when he played the Philharmonie together with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, it became clear that Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos is an artist of rank who needs to be taken seriously. The only leonine thing about him is his physical presence – that, and his lithe way of walking. Otherwise, this is a sensitive pianist who is interested in the composition, in the structure of the music; a pianist who lovingly strings details together, sometimes at breakneck speed. He has lost nothing of his phenomenal technique […] Volodos maintained the balance between emotional irritation, breaking down boundaries as he proceeded, and a composure that betrayed forced optimism (in Prokofiev's second piano concerto). […] An exciting evening with the Munich Philharmonic that stayed in one's mind long after the last note faded."
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, concert on 29.06.09 Munich/Philharmonie)
"Volodos: from sorcerer to gentle magician
Here, in the Essen Philharmonie, Volodos's appearance at the Ruhr piano festival proved conclusively that sublime phrasing, sensitivity and rapture can draw the listener in more than pure virtuosity […] Arcadi Volodos served us music by Scriabin as a dreamy array of colour, but without forgetting the power of the motivic compression. The mood pictures of Catalan composer Mompou breathed an air of sublime simplicity. Spanish colouring, as in the Albéniz nocturne Córdoba, showed through, but was never insensitively rammed into the limelight in folk music style. Everything, including Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, seemed weightless, as if dabbed lightly on to the canvas. […] Volodos, once known for hammering the keyboard, has evolved into a fine artist for whom reflection is more important than wild eccentricity."
(WAZ, recital on 09.06.09, Essen/Philharmonie –Ruhr Piano Festival)

"In Liszt's Dante Sonata, Arcadi Volodos showed what an exceptional artist he is. The tritone interval that creates the diabolus in musica in "Après une lecture de Dante. Fantasia quasi Sonata" can hardly be hurled at the listener with greater eruptive force. In the process, Volodos never loses track of the big picture; even in the passages with tumultuous climaxes, he retains his musical culture and his dynamic control. […] Today, Volodos showed himself to be a magician of timbre in a class of his own. […] with Scriabin's Sonata no. 7 "White Mass", he gave us a compelling combination of trill-soaked virtuosity and the composer's own special mysticism. The Russian pianist celebrates the sonata's sharply-accentuated main motif in a wide variety of light. Flowing, relaxed and meditative, at odds with all the fashionable trends of modern music, Mompou's miniatures appeared unpretentious and fragile – in Volodos's hands, they turned into polished gems."
(Die Rheinpfalz, recital on 05.06.09, Baden-Baden/Festspielhaus)

"Another sorcerer in his element is the St. Petersburg pianist Arcadi Volodos, who played the solo part in Rachmaninov's third piano concerto. In Volodos's hands, the fast tempi in the first and third movements movements were not a vehicle for virtuoso display. Rather, he placed his remarkable technical skill at the service of an interpretation that focused on expressive clarity and consistency."
(Die Rheinpfalz, concert on 22.03.09, Mannheim/Rosengarten)

"Apparently there are people who travel from city to city to hear Volodos playing Rachmaninov. Sounds crazy, but one can understand them."
(Ruhr Nachrichten, concert on 21.03.09, Essen/Philharmonie)

"Arcadi Volodos as a master of complexity. Volodos the homo ludens of the piano keyboard, an artist who uses filigree acrobatics of dexterity as a means to an end."
(WAZ, concert on 21.03.09, Essen/Philharmonie)

"Volodos is most certainly a unique phenomenon on the current piano scene - an extraordinary virtuoso but moreover an artist whose talent compells us to the most dizzying of  heights."                                                                                                                                                    (, concert 29.04.09 Paris / Théatre des Champs-Elysées)

Flooded with sound

"When Arcadi Volodos left the concert platform of the Berlin Philharmonie after his fourth encore, every corner of the hall was filled with sound.  [...] And Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales likewise found themselves moulded into a gently-flowing kaleidoscope of colour, fantastic timbres shimmering in matt. Music can hardly sound more impressionistic than this. [...] The Liszt was a keyboard thunderstorm: over deep planes of virtuosity, Volodos hurled bolts of tritone lightning towards the audience. Thus a magical and filigree recital ended on a note of brute force."
(Tagesspiegel, concert of 08.03.09 Berlin/Philharmonie)

"Volodos played Robert Schumann's Waldszenen, op. 82, in the Tonhalle [...] with a cautious magic that revealed the secrets of this cryptic cycle in fairy-tale tones. [...] The evening had already commenced with veiled and enigmatic music in the shape of a small selection of Scriabin, including an outstanding reading of the Sonata no.7, and Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales. Here, Volodos once again disproved the cliché that he is mainly interested in smashing up Steinways. The cycle comes to a quiet and unpretentious conclusion, and Volodos played it beautifully. The recital culminated in Liszt's Dante Sonata, which this reviewer has rarely heard performed with such grandeur, namely with almost tender brutality. Volodos hammered the octaves out unerringly on the keyboard, linking the keys with a metaphoric cable so that they seemed to be literally electrified. For all that, his Liszt still offered much more poetry than noise. Resounding applause, four encores."
(Rheinische Post, concert of 06.03.09, Düsseldorf/Tonhalle)

  A waltz of secondary parts with a love of detail

"Lean back and listen: [...] It is the tipped-back head of this artist, born in St. Petersburg in 1972, that enables him, too, to listen as exactly as his audience definitely has to, if it wants to really get to the bottom of what Volodos is playing. It's true that the Russian pianist has all that it takes to be a consummate virtuoso, and that he shows this entirely naturally, his playing literally bristling with power that he vents from time to time in a manner nothing short of explosive. But he uses both these skills not so much for the purpose of self-presentation as to bring out things that lie hidden beneath the music's surface. He seeks challenge in a wide variety of nuances. One might also say that he focuses all his interest on details, on hidden secondary parts, on cross-references within the individual compositions, as well as within his well-planned recital programmes. His decision to juxtapose Scriabin, Ravel, Schumann and Liszt, for instance, was literally a stroke of genius. [...] One had the feeling that the bird-prophet from Schumann's Waldszenen was warbling away quite unexpectedly in Scriabin's Piano sonata no.7, "White Mass". Or suddenly, harmonic resemblances could be heard between Schumann and Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales. Liszt's "Fantasia quasi sonata" Après une lecture du Dante, in turn, from the Italian book of his Années de pèlerinage abounded in Arcadi Volodos's hands with modernity and darkness – though here, too, this didn't prevent the pianist from combining sharpness and elegance in miraculous fashion."
(Der Standard, concert given on 01.03.09 in Vienna / Musikverein)

 Colourful musical garlands

"The recital opened with Scriabin's "White Mass" sonata. A series of préludes and poèmes led – drily at first, then ever more airy – from the ponderous D flat major and B flat minor worlds of the Late Romantic into the idiosyncratic harmonic weightlessness of Scriabin's unique tonal cosmos. "Garlands" is the title of the piece from the "Two dances, op.73" where the melodic lines dance like spirits of the air. The sonata unfolds in this directionless space, the music rendered 'white' by the radiant and bright towers of colour that the chords create. Volodos is in his element here. There are no obstacles in his technique that could prevent him from spinning the ever more closely entwined threads more and more densely. In Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales he uses this virtue to form a kaleidoscope of transparent, gossamer hues. Seldom does Ravel's trick of requoting the waltz melodies all fragmented and masked in the closing piece, as if heard through glass, seem to make as much sense as in Volodos's gifted hands: in the original, they already sound like fragile silhouettes."
(Die Presse, concert given on 01.03.09 in Vienna / Musikverein)

 Already very, very close to perfection

"Arcadi Volodos possesses a tremendous technique, a marvellous subtlety of tone and the ability to shape sequences of notes into strings of pearls. [...] In his Scriabin, one was particularly fascinated by the Guirlandes with their wonderfully dismantled chords, and also by his original reading of the Sonata no.7. Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales and Schumann's Waldszenen were perfect. The virtuoso highlight of the recital was Liszt's Après une lecture de Dante, Fantasia quasi sonata, from the Années de Pèlerinage. One couldn't wish for a better rendering. [...] The audience rewarded this wonderful playing with resounding applause."
(Kurier, concert given on 01.03.09 in Vienna / Musikverein)

"Perfect, with no frills. Arcadi Volodos plays Schubert in the Prinzregententheater

This wasn't the first time Volodos played Schubert in public, but this time he showed, especially in the delicate and melancholy finale of the G major sonata, that he can really get to the heart of this music, rendering Schubert's emotions as if he were feeling them himself. He remained entirely relaxed in the process, with his utterly brilliant and innate perfect technique allowing him immense mental freedom, where many an artist must work hard just to make sure that every note in the score is reproduced comprehensibly. At his best, Volodos's Schubert flows like natural speech. With the left hand, he plays a bass line as calm and solid as it is exciting, accentuating it as an antithesis of equal weight to the restless energy of the treble and thus creating entirely new sound and narrative worlds."
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, concert on 23.01.09 in Munich's Prinzregententheater)

"Applause for Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos: Schubert, Skriabin and Ravel recital in the "Prinze"

Arcadi Volodos opened his recital in the Prinzregententheater with the same Schubert sonata that he has already released on CD. His music-making is nothing short of stunning. He brings out the essentials clearly, avoiding pathos and sentimentality. Atmosphere and sound in Volodos's readings are subordinated to a logical concept that focuses on content and not on brilliance. There are few pianists around at the moment who are willing to risk such exciting and honest interpretations of Schubert's music. Then the second part of the almost sold-out recital brought the trapeze acts: the Russian pianist mastered the roller-coaster of the Skriabin sonata (no. 7) just as magnificently as the delicate and refined kaleidoscope of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales. The audience applauded as if there was no tomorrow."
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, concert given on 23.01.09 in Munich's Prinzregententheater)

“Liszt in Arcadi’s Land
Volodos delivers a perfect Liszt CD, personal and deeply felt. […] his perfection is only put at the service of the music read which is reconstructed with a fidelity to the composer deprived of all razzle-dazzle showmanship. […] The pieces by the late Liszt are played with verve, simplicity and eloquence.”
Alain Lompech, Diapason 5/07

Milan Recital 30 January, 2007
"The programme he chose for his Milanese debut reveals another aspect of his personality, not only the virtuoso, but also the interpreter is definitely out of the ordinary."
Corriere della Sera, 30 Jan. 2007
“To my ears, this is easily Arcadi Volodos's most successful disc so far. There has never been any doubt as to his technical ability or his musicianship, but previously in recitals and on recordings his performances have too often seemed over-calculated or ostentatiously virtuosic. Liszt, though, seems to produce a much more spontaneous reaction from him. The 10 items in this recital range widely - they include three numbers from the Années de Pèlerinage, one of the Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses, and three of the remarkable late pieces, the Bagatelle sans Tonalité, La Lugubre Gondola No 2, and En Rêve - and each of them is realised with such expressive warmth, tonal delicacy and textural clarity that one constantly longs to hear Volodos tackle the whole sets. His quiet playing is a marvel in itself; crystalline, effortlessly lucid, while the technical control in the more virtuoso passages, like the climax of the perfectly shaped Vallée d'Oberman, and the evocation of St Francis preaching to the birds, is hugely impressive.” Andrew Clements
The Guardian, Friday April 20, 2007
“Although there’s much more to Liszt than virtuoso fireworks, those fireworks matter. (…) Opening with the mighty “vallée d’Obermann”, Volodos declaims, scampers, blazes and muses is way through a well chosen selectionm ranging from the forward-gazing harmonies of the Bagatelle ohne Tonart to the cimbalom-fizz of the Hungarian Rhapsody No.13, and from the reflectibe Bach transcription “Weinen, Klagen…” to a near-manic account of Funérailles.”
BBC Magazine, April 2007
The cover shows Volodos dwarfed by his piano’s bulk. But there’s no doubt who’s the master. His technique and dynamic range are phenomenal. Climaxes can be ferocious, yet within seconds he’s whispering or, in the St Francis of Assisi portrait, stroking bird feather. This selection provides ample scope for scaling Everest; the only regret is that the mountain view is a bit chilly. What does Volodos feel as he plays? He’s not telling.
Geoff Brown
The Times, March 23, 2007
"The year's best disc: Arcadi Volodos and Seiji Ozawa, Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto (Sony Classical). Ditto, plus the unsurpassable Berlin Philharmonic."
-Boston Herald
"Volodos is breathtakingly athletic, and plays with a range of touch and articulation that is nearly unequaled in the current generation of pianists. However, he uses his gifts with more emotional conservatism - an approach seconded by conductor Ozawa. If you dislike Lang Lang, you'll love Volodos."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer
 (on Volodos' new recording of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1)
"...he's the next legend-to-be."
-Los Angeles Times
"...the 25 year old Russian mesmerized those in attendence with a jaw-dropping display that recalled the halcyon days of Vladimir Horowitz."
-Chicago Tribune (Volodos performance review)
"A genius, a phenomenon... a remarkably gifted musician..."
-San Diego Tribune October 98
"Like a flawless trapeze artist, he flies from scale to arpeggio to octave runs with the greatest of ease."
-New York Times October 98
Arcadi Volodos' recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.3 was nominated for a 2001 Grammy Award as Best Instrumental Soloist (with Orchestra).
"Transcriptions": Gramophone Editor Choice 1997
"Live at Carnegie": Gramophone Award (best instrumental recording) 1999
Schubert: June 2002 Gramophone Editor's Choice 'Volodos turns to Schubert in a triumphant recording that will surprise and delight'