CLASSICAL / Arkady Volodos Wigmore Hall, London

The young Russian pianist hit all the right notes. By Adrian Jack
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The Independent Culture
The latest Russian piano sensation arrived at the Wigmore Hall on Wednesday evening. Arkady Volodos was born in St Petersburg in 1972 and is currently studying with Dimitri Bashkirov in Madrid. Volodos looks like Beethoven and walks on the stage like a wrestler who knows he's going to win. He occupied - transformed - the second half of the "Young Masters" concert with a programme recalling the "Golden Age" of pianists near the beginning of the century, except that he included Schubert's earliest and incomplete Sonata in E major, D 157, which until recently was virtually unknown, or certainly unplayed.

Volodos at once showed what he was made of in Samuel Feinberg's transcription of the Largo from Bach's Organ Trio Sonata in C major, caressing it with the sort of sensuous, cushioned sound and subtly weighted touch associated with the late Shura Cherkassky, though any comparison ends there. Still, laments for the death of a romantic piano tradition are premature, and Volodos is not alone among young players in his completely natural feeling for luxuriant sound and seductive phrasing. His firm tempi distanced him from some of the legendary names of the past, and his approach to the three movements, all that Schubert completed of his Sonata, was disciplined, all charm expressed in the delicacy of his touch.

Like many Russian pianists, Arkady Volodos contributes to the art of transcribing, and he played his own versions of two Rachmaninov songs, plus another as an encore, with insouciant casualness, slipping in some jazzy chromaticisms, like most transcribers of this type, for good measure.

In Scriabin's Fifth Sonata, the main fast tempo may well have set a record, though nothing was scrambled, and the wild winging of Volodos's hands did nothing if not justify Scriabin's exhortation, "Impetuoso con stravaganza". The whole thing had lightness and joy, too, and the transparent layers of sound suggested a subtly modulated spectrum of orchestral colours. This wasn't pianistic pugilism, but imaginitive re-creation, even though Volodos walked off afterwards as if he'd just felled an opponent.

He ended with another transcription by Samuel Feinberg - of the Scherzo from Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony. It's a remarkable transcription, utterly true to Tchaikovsky's orchestral sound, though the glissandi and flurries at the end provoked a smile. Volodos commanded all its delicacy, as well as its eventual ferocity, with a rhythmic drive, sustained with a buoyancy that almost confirmed the conductor's adage that tempo is everything. He certainly hit on the right one.

As a bonus, he sent us home, fairly reeling, with Horowitz's Variations on a Theme from Bizet's Carmen, supplementing Horowitz's ample showers of notes with some well chosen additions of his own.