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Arcadi Volodos’ visits to the studio are rare. Here, revisiting Schubert after virtuoso flights at once sky-rocketing and cool-headed (his dizzying Horowitz and Cziffra transcriptions, not forgetting other less worldly recordings of Brahms and Mompou), he now reveals that he possesses what is surely the most refined and spectacular technique of any living pianist.

Listeners will be lost in wonder at the finesse he draws from Schubert’s great A major Sonata No 20, representing a sea- change also heard in his London recital earlier this year, where his pianissimo was so fragile it scarcely passed the front row. Pyrotechnics are now replaced with extreme inwardness and confidentiality. For some, such quality will seem less dramatic and direct than Piemontesi’s reading, more artfully applied in its endless scope of nuances and rainbow colours. When you witness the palpable stillness Volodos conjures from the opening of the Andante, and when you hear his chiaroscuro, a light and shade beyond the reach of virtually any other pianist, you feel above all compelled to marvel at Schubert’s genius.

In the Three Minuets, only superficially slight encores, Volodos’ alchemy and luminous pianism creates its own extraordinary ambience. His ghostly tread in D600 makes this performance among the most eerie on record. Sony’s sound does Volodos proud, capturing every tint of his unique dynamic range.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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