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Reviews: Volodos Plays Liszt

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Reviews: 4

Site review by akiralx March 7, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
This generous (76 minute) recital of heavyweight (often sombre) Liszt came with Volodos' signature on the front cover - genuine, as some of the gold ink had smeared onto the case. I would have happily forgone that for some notes in English (the booklet is entirely in German).

The disc was recorded over 5 months in 2006 in 3 sets of sessions - the recordings are reasonably well matched, but some of the pieces do have a slight tendency to 'ring' when the playing in the treble rises above fortissimo (for example, in the opening Vallée d'Obermann - the only work in the piano repertoire with a breed of dog in the title). Maybe this is because the editors and recording engineers are the same two man team, surely they are rather different disciplines?

The venue was the Berlin Teldex studio, which isn't particularly intimate but suits the performances quite well, leading to the impression of a great pianist playing for his own pleasure in some large recital room.

In fact the sound in stereo is pretty good overall, and the performances are very fine - though I wouldn't listen to the whole recital in one sitting. The best performances are the ones from the Années de Pelerinage, the 13th Hungarian Rhapsody (in Volodos' own edition, and fortunately given one of the very good recordings) and the shorter works like the Bagatelle sans tonalité - in fact the playing throughout is on a very high level and there are no disappointments here, even if Funérailles doesn't quite match Zimerman's inspired version on DG.

Still, if you're looking for the swashbuckling Liszt of the operatic transcriptions, the flashier Hungarian Rhapsodies and the Mephisto Waltz, you had perhaps better make enquiries elsewhere. Recommended as a disc to enjoy rather like a strong espresso: it has an intense flavour, best sampled in small servings.

Review by Daland March 11, 2007 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Sonically this Liszt recital is in a class of its own. It is difficult to think of a recording that captures the piano sound more faithfully or with more dynamic graduations. The sound engineer, Friedemann Engelbracht, noted in a full-page interview with the German classical music magazine "Rondo" that the recording sessions began in the evening hours and lasted until two or three in the morning to avoid traffic noise. He referred to "long takes" and "microphone setups", but - believe it or not - did not mention that this was an SACD. Nor was this fact mentioned in the review published on another page of the magazine. A half-page ad at least contained the SACD logo.
In interpretative terms, this recital is also very successful. I must admit that I associated Volodos mainly with barnstorming bravura pieces. But here we have music that probes the depths of human feeling, some of the best that Liszt wrote for the keyboard. And Volodos does this music full justice. The highlights of the disc are probably "Vallée d'Obermann" (the title refers to the hero of an epistolary novel by Senancour rather than a breed of dog), which describes an emotional world rather than a valley, "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" (on a theme by Bach) and "Funérailles" (dedicated to the Hungarian freedom struggle, with the music whipped up to a veritable frenzy).
If only this recital were followed by a recording of Liszt's piano concertos, so far totally ignored by SACD producers.

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Review by RedFox June 16, 2007 (4 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A supplementary remark to the previous two reviews:

AWARDS
Classic FM Best Buy - July 2007
Gramophone Editors Choice - July 2007
Telegraph Classical CDs of the Week - June 2007
Times Classical CD of the Week - April 2007

I would highly appreciate if information about
awards would be provided for other sa-cds as well.

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Review by ohnesorg January 24, 2010 (0 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I agree with prior reviews: this is perhaps the best rendition of these Liszt pieces I have heard, and I have heard quite a few. I write this only to inform that, contrary to the SA-CD.net listing, the version (I purchased) from CD Universe is not SACD. My Sony player acknowledges SACD or hybrids with an unmistakable blue light SACD indicator. This CD is not so acknowledged and the player will consequently not play an SACD layer, even if the CD had one.
Amazon lists two versions, one SACD, and one not SACD, although the front album cover shown looks the same on each listing. To add to the confusion, for the one listed by Amazon as SACD, only the front cover is shown, but for the one listed as not SACD, Amazon also shows the back cover, which sports the SACD logo.
The back cover of my CD Universe version does not have the SACD logo.
Apparently, the only way to ensure that you are purchasing the SACD version is to be personally guaranteed that the back cover sports the SACD logo, and you cannot rely on the picture on the web site.
Unfortunately, none of the online dealers lists a contact phone, so you're stuck waiting for email response, assuming you get one.

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