There is not a Schubert song from which you cannot learn something. It was said by old Brahms walking with his student, Gustav Jenner, around 1890. The comment, which is read in his compilation of memories of the German composer (Marburg, 1905), it was not a simple invitation to study the Songs of Schubert, but also to apply his essentially poetic approach to instrumental music. We know that Schubert himself established links between his cycles of Songs and his piano sonatas, as demonstrated Charles Fisk (University of California Press, 2001). But to understand the scope of those poetic images spilled in his instrumental music we must reveal his “fingerprints”, as he has done. Susan Wollenberg (Ashgate, 2011).
Arcadi Volodos has dedicated his first recital of 2021 to those traces that Schubert and Brahms share, yesterday at the Zaragoza Auditorium. An unforgettable evening for the Russian pianist (Saint Petersburg, 49 years old) who did not diminish any of the rigorous sanitary measures in force. Volodos has been updating what should be a virtuoso in the 21st century for more than a decade. “A virtuoso is not one who impresses the listener with his pyrotechnics, but one who makes technical feats disappear in favor of intensity, diversity, the beauty of colors and nuances, and the emotional impact of his performance,” he said during an interview with Frédéric Gaussin at jejouedupiano.com. A philosophy that he has embodied in multiple recitals around the world, but also in his latest record releases, in Sony Classical, focused on the piano pieces of Brahms (2017) and in the penultimate sonata of Schubert (2019).
His concert, in the ideal acoustics of the Sala Mozart, closed with a performance for the memory of the Intermezzo op, 117 numbers. 1by Brahms. It was the fourth tip, after more than an hour and a half of non-stop music. A piece inspired by a Scottish ballad from the 16th century that represents a mother trying to put her baby to sleep who won’t stop crying. Volodos activated this five-minute microdrama from the keys of his piano. Not only did she cradle us, amid dynamic feats, with that sweet Brahms smile in E-flat major, but she also plunged us into a gloomy sleep, where the mother contemplates the death of her husband. A central section, in E flat minor, that returns to the initial key to take up the aforementioned lullaby, now lighter and more varied. The mother wipes away her tears and Volodos ends up highlighting that enigmatic ending in the form of slight dissonances in the coda.
This juxtaposition between cheerful major keys and dramatic minor homonyms or relative is, precisely, one of Schubert’s distinctive traces, according to Wollenberg. We listened to it, at the beginning of the concert, in the Sonata in G major D. 894, which was opened with a Very moderado and cantabile twenty-one minutes. An example of what Schumann called “celestial longitude” in Schubert, but which in Volodos’ hands sounded fluid from beginning to end. For this, the pianist loaded the thematic differences, within the exhibition, between a static motif and a danceable one, as well as between the keys of B minor and B major. But the main achievement of Volodos we hear it, during development, where Schubert loads the inks and exhibits another of his identity traces: his violent nature. And he traces a grim canonical process that modulates even B-flat minor and ends by proclaiming the innocent opening theme with a terrifying C minor in fortisísimo.
The andante he followed the path of juxtaposition of two opposite personalities. A charming and lyrical D major alternating twice with a dramatic and passionate B minor. Volodos extreme the dynamics and loaded the inks on the contrasts, as in the minueto, with that tone halfway between the Viennese living room and the country hubbub. Here we hear another of the glorious moments of the night: an evocative trio that was the embodiment of happiness. The work closes with an amplified rondo, an exuberant melodic festival, which sounded as beautiful as it was monotonous.
Volodos confessed, at the end of the recital, the difficulty of going from this monumental Schubert, without intermission, to the solidity of a cycle of pieces by Brahms. But the Russian pianist immersed himself with passion in the staves of the Six pieces for piano op. 118, by the hamburger composer. In the first two Interludes exhibited an exquisite stolen together with dense and evanescent sounds. In the ballad he opted for a more polished tone with wonderful middle voices. The dialogue shone in the no. 4. From Romance, which follows, Volodos raised the middle section: an idyllic musette full of trills and arabesques. And from spring we went to death, in the Intermezzo final, with that intonation based on the Day of wrath sculpted with the pedal, it sounded as contemplative as it was apocalyptic in its central cavalcade.
It was not easy to choose a tip, after the twenty seconds of silence before the applause. No one seemed to feel like leaving, so Volodos started a short round of four tips. But the pianist avoided any hint of exhibitionism. He opened fire with an early and simple miniature by Schubert: his Minueto D. 334. It was followed by the most popular of his Musical moments D. 780, no. 3, cheerful moderate, a sonorous epigram with Hungarian perfume, which Volodos endowed with an exquisite danceable tone. But before concluding with the referred version of the Intermezzo op, 117 numbers. 1, the Russian pianist wanted to offer a tribute to the Spanish music that he most admires, with the second piece of Landscapesby Federico Mompou. And we hear an exquisite portrait of The lake, which evokes, with an impressionistic air, the sounds of water from the Montjuic park in Barcelona.