This was a truly unique occasion! For the first time, the great Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos (about whom I've written many times in this blog) came to Greece and performed in a packed Athens Concert Hall.
For me, this was the second time I have been fortunate to hear the great pianist live- the first being in London (Royal Festival Hall), back in 2004, where he played Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto.
In Athens, Volodos decided to dedicate his program to "classic" works of the Romantic era. He started with Schubert's Sonata in C major D 279. (This is an early work, composed in 1815/6.) From the very first note, he established the style of this music: well controlled dynamics, lightness, finesse. I particularly admired the Andante (2nd movement) - the extraordinary ease with which he managed to bring out each and every nuance of the musical phrase.
Next came Brahms, Intermezzi op. 117. I know the work quite well, I've played it in public many times. All I can say is that this was truly a revelation. Never have I heard such an introspective, pensive and personal interpretation of this work. There was a certain, carefully "planned", freedom in his tempi which, however, helped to produce a magical effect. I had an overwhelming feeling of music brought to life, with unimaginable dimensions for so frequently played a piece. This was music as close to poetry as can be. The 2nd Intermezzo (in B flat minor) was a moment of profound and deep nostalgia - a world of bittersweet melancholy. Volodos managed to extact from the Steinway an extreme pianissimo one very rarely is blessed to hear. I think that his Brahms was the best moment of the concert.
In the second part, the great virtuoso played Schumman's well known Kinderszenen, op. 15. Again, I've played this piece and I am well aware of its deceptive easy-ness. I witnessed Volodos's genius in being the absolute master of his sound. He brought out inner voices that I've never heard before (especially in the repeats). His Traumerei was such a delight, and I was fascinated with the fast tempo of Ritter vom Steckenpferd. The epilogue (Der Dichter spricht - the Poet Speaks), was indeed the poet - Volodos, that is, speaking...
Schumann's Fantasia (op. 17) is, to me, one of the least appealing works of the German composer. In fact, I fail to grasp the structure of the work, plus I confess that I find it long, uninteresting and boring. But with Volodos, I got at least a sense of overall unity, a persuasive presentation of the various ideas penetrating the work.
Responding generously to the enthusiastic response of the audience, Volodos played 4-5 encores! I did not know most of these (what a shame!), and I would be very interested to find out, if someone was there and could tell me.
All in all, it was an unforgetable occasion; rarely do we have the chance to hear such prodigious sounds in our city!
I went and congratulated him afterwards - here is a picture!!
PS I like the way he sits at the piano: he never uses a stool but leans back on a chair, which creates a relaxing atmosphere. I was also impressed by the way he looked up while playing - as if the music he was playing was bestowed from heaven...