When I first heard Arcadi Volodos in Rome some years ago ,the phrase that greeted Horowitz’s Paris debut came to mind “the greatest pianist alive or dead”.
Starting his recital at the Barbican tonight the Theme and Variations in D minor by Brahms ,I was reminded of Gilels for the sheer beauty of sound and musical intelligence that left no doubt that we were in the presence of a real master.
Then as he proceeded with the Eight pieces op 76 one marvelled at the control, the amazing half lights and colours but thought is this Brahms or Scriabin ? Inner melodies so subtley introduced in the half light atmosphere created,but one was left with the question of what happened to the classical ,instrumentally inspired Brahms.
And so it was with the Schubert Bflat Sonata. Such sounds ,control and perfection can have rarely been heard . But surely behind the notes of this, Schuberts last sonata there is in this seeming simplicity the utmost melancholy,grief,nostalgia and many other things not reachable with words,that seemed to be glossed over in this sumptuous, remarkable playing of such beauty. A real Russian paradox that does not seem to allow energy,uglyness and general masculinity into its world of whispered half lights.
Only Gilels and Ashkenazy have conquered this paradox with the results that have passed into history.
Standing ovation,of course,and four encores.
A Schubert minuet that sounded like the most wonderful Bach Choral Prelude and then suddenly a piece by Mompou with such charm and colour that led into a transcription of Malaguena of Horowitz proportions that made one thank God that they had been present to hear what surely must have been heard in Paris almost a century ago much to the consternation of his rival Artur Rubinstein.
An intermezzo in E flat minor op 118 by Brahms brought us down to earth after our glimpse of a paradise lost.