INKPOT#45 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: Arcadi Volodos plays Piano Transcriptions (Sony)


Arcadi Volodos plays piano transcriptions

Arcadi Volodos plays piano transcriptions


Variations on a Theme from Bizet’s “Carmen”

Morning, Op.4 No.2. Melody, Op.21 No.9 (arr. Volodos)
Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C sharp minor, 5244 (arr. Horowitz).
Litanei: S562 no.1, Schwanengesang; S560, no.3 Aufenthalt; No.10, Liebesbotschaft.

Flight of the Bumble-Bee

(arr. Cziffra)

SERGEI PROKOFIEV Pieces from Cinderella

Gavotte, Op.95 No.2; Oriental Dance, Op.97 No.6; Grand Waltz, Op. 107 No.1.
PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No.6 in B minor, “Pathétique”, Op.74
Allegro molto vivace (arr. Feinberg)
J.S. BACH Trio Sonata No.5 in C, BWV59
Largo (arr. Feinberg)
Concert Paraphrase on Mozart’s “Turkish March”.


SONY Classical SK 62691
[61’20”] full price

by Johann D’Souza

The British Guardian described this disc as “a debut with a collection of transcriptions, some of them [Volodos’] own …[which] shows a real individuality and daring, and Volodos brings off the feat superbly. His technique is seamless, his ability not only to play but also to shape and project every one of the torrents of notes is breathtaking”.

Well, what prompted me to buy this disc was firstly the two pieces, Utro (“Morning”) and Melodiya (“Melody”) by Rachmaninov (left). Apparently these two pieces were actually transcribed by ear – that is, their notes written down from listening to recordings made by Vladimir Horowitz who came up with the original transcriptions. The thing is Horowitz is said to have never written down the notes of these (transcriptions).

So far only one other person comes to mind regarding these transcriptions-by-ear, the Russian pianist Lazar Berman, who did a similar recording by playing over and over again tapes of Horowitz’s performances before carefully putting down the jigsaw puzzle of notes to form the score. Both pieces are accurately defined, and after hearing the opening bars of Melodiya, one can tell that it has all the characteristics of the Rachmaninov Op.32 Preludes.

The cover shows a rather stout young man with the looks of Beethoven and the strength of a wrestler. Arcadi Volodos (left) is now 25 years old and has had the privilege of studying with Galina Eguizarova, the teacher of Radu Lupu. She describes Volodos to be the other most talented pupil she has ever had. With this in mind I approached this disc with great anticipation and was not at all disappointed. Volodos has picked this programme of works which displays such famous works as The Flight of the Bumble-Bee which are, however, not commonly played by many pianists. Other works of great popularity include the “Carmen Variations” and the Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 by Liszt.

After hearing the Hungarian Rhapsody there is no doubt that Volodos’ dexterity is unquestionable. This was an added bonus because one could sense that he had thrown caution to the wind and just let his fingers go, without regard for the consequences, knowing full-heartedly that he can pull it off. His rendition of the Schubert/Liszt piece, the Aufenthalt from the Litanei, displayed his keen sense of the pedal. His legatos, pianissimos and fortissimos were clear and unmuffled.

One interesting work which I have always enjoyed is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee, arranged by Cziffra, which was brought to light recently in the film Shine. This is however a different rendition. Volodos’ speed is unbelievably fast – I wondered what the markings were and thought of something like Allegro vivace feroce. His legatos are very smooth and this helps with the juxtaposition of the different lines when the staccatos came along.

Another work that I had enjoyed greatly was Feinberg’s transcription of the Scherzo from the Tchaikovsky’s (left) Sixth Symphony, the Pathéthique. This was performed with much energy and vigour. I have never heard a piano version of this piece and it is only after hearing the orchestral version of this piece will you understand Volodos’ great skill in representing the various instruments of this orchestral display of fireworks.

His versatility is also seen in another transcription of Bach’s Largo from the Trio Sonata No.5, BWV 529. His contrapuntal technique and inner feeling are displayed through his lucidity and clarity, also displayed by the best of pianists like Rosalyn Tureck and Andras Schiff. The last piece is a transcription of Mozart’s Turkish March by Volodos himself. This not only shows his faithful transcribing ability but the also the skills of a fine composer. I am quite convinced that this disc will be featured as a nominee for some award at the year-end polls. However I will be really looking forward to see him perform/record some Mozart concerti with some of the virtuosic cadenzas which pianists like Alfred Brendel and Radu Lupu have written. Volodos is currently touring and performing the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto. I can only say that with the Rachmaninov pieces on this disc, I can only hope they record that too!

Horowitz has left a great legacy of transciptions and I hope too that Volodos will take some opportunity to do more. Maybe a double disc set of Horowitz transciptions!

In the meantime, this disc takes you on a historical journey from Bach to the Russian greats of Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. I highly recommend this disc – it is light, yet intropective, virtuosic with some deep readings of the Bach and Bizet pieces. A good buy for the seasoned listener as well as a good introduction for people who just enjoy piano music.

This disc is available at or can be ordered from Tower Records (Pacific Plaza & Suntec City), HMV (The Heeren) or Sing Discs (Raffles City).

Johann D’Souza‘s ambition is to lose the 20 kilos that he said he would lose in the past 5 years.. Oh no not again…

Back to the Classical Index!… or read previous piano reviews and features from the Inkvault archives.

135: 30.12.97; up.10.5.98 Johann D’Souza

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