LISZT: Vallée d'Obermann. Il Penseroso. St. François d'Assise - La prédication aux oiseaus. Bagatelle ohne Tonart. Bagatelle sand tonalité. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13. Sposalizio. "Weinen,Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen." Funérailles. La lugubre gondola No. 2. En rève - Nocturne.
Arcadi Volodos, pianist
SONY CLASSICAL SACD 88697065002 TT: 76:18

HAYDN: L'isola disabitata Overture. Sinfonia Concertante in B flat. Symphony No. 100 in G "Military"
Netherlands Chamber Orch/Gordon Nikolic, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 300 TT: 51:08

SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat, Op. 99, D. 898. Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, Op. 100, D. 929.
Storioni Trio Amsterdam
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 050 TT: 79:32

It's surprising a pianist of the stature and reputation of Arcadi Volodos has made so few recordings since his spectacular first disk of piano transcriptions issued a decade ago. Interpretively, this new Liszt release is extraordinary, for the most part focused on the composer's more brooding works, although there are plenty of fireworks in the form of the Hungarian Rhapsody and Funérailles. I imagine Volodos' legion of fans would have prefered some of the concert etudes or other display pieces, but perhaps those will follow later. On this CD Volodos doesn't hesitate to add his own embellishments from time to time, and to great effect, and his playing is distinguished by an uncommon range of dynamics. No doubt Volodos is the virtuoso supreme. This CD is available only in SACD format which can, of course,be played on any CD player. The recordings were made at Teldex Studio in Berlin on a Steinway piano in three sessions during 2006: May 2-4, August 12-14, and September 23-25. The sound, unfortunately, is overly-resonant resulting in a lack of clarity in the bass and, oddly, upper registers sounding quite brittle. I would have liked, as Chuck Gerhardt always put it, more of "the sound of flesh on the keys."—an artist of this calibre deserves the finest sound, not quite heard on this issue (this disk was reviewed elsewhere on this SITE; it has been issued only in SACD/CD format).

Pentatone has two more winners with these Haydn/Schubert releases. Gordon Nikolic has two distinguished careers, both as a concert violinist and as a conductor. Since 2004 he has been artistic director of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and can be heard both as violinist and conductor, along with cellist Herre-Jan Stegenga, oboist Toon Durville, and bassoonist Margreet Bongers in Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante. The disk opens with the Sinfonia from the composer's L'isola disabitata, and ends with a rousing performance of Symphony No. 100. The superb surround sound vividly captures percussive elements of the "Military" symphony. The only negative feature of this SACD is its very short playing time—only 51 minutes? Come on, Pentatone, give buyers their money's worth.

Buyers do get their money's worth on the other SACD featuring Schubert's two big piano trios, Op. 99 and 100. The Storioni Trio, founded in 1996, takes its name from the Laorentius Storioni violin from Cremona, which dates from 1794, played by Wouter Vossen. Other members of the trio are pianist Bart van de Roer and cellist Marc Vossen. Splendid, vibrant performances here of Schubert's immortal music, recorded with tonal beauty and sonics that place you right inside a concert hall.

R.E.B. (June 2007)