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 (F) TT: 76:18

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op.19. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor." Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80. Rondo in B flat, WoO 6. 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120. Polonaise in C, Op. 89. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111.
Julius Katchen, pianist/London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Pierino Gamba, cond.
DECCA 475 8449 (4 CDs) (B) TT: 74:52 / 74:21 / 50:59 / 77:08

ZEISL: Piano Concerto in C. Pierrot in der Flascha.
Gottlieb Wallisch, pianist/Vienna Radio Symphony Orch/Johannes Wildner, cond.
cpo 777 226 (F) TT: 62:49

BOCHIHINA: Canto Ostinato. WALTER: Vacuum Hallucinations. VROE: Theremin Islands. HIRSCH: Rezitativ und Arie. KLEIN: If You Wish. NIKOLAEV: Black and White Music. EGGERT: The Son of the Daughter of Dracula versus the Incredible Frankenstein Monster (from Outer Space). YUSUPOVA: Kitezh-19.
Lycia Kavina and Barbara Buchholz, theremins/Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin
WERGO WER 6679 (F) TT: 59:40

It is surprising that 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, surely not heard on this issue.

Decca continues to reissue major past recordings and offers American pianist Julius Katchen's Beethoven concerto recordings made from 1953 to 1964, complementing their release of Katchen's recording of solo works of Brahms. Katchen's died of cancer in 1969, a tragically early end to an extraordinary career. These Beethoven recordings are dynamic to the extreme, and beautifully recorded by engineers Kenneth Wilkinson and Arthur Lilley. This budget-priced release is most welcome.

Viennese composer Erich Zeisl, born May 18, 1905, gained considerable fame after publication in 1922 of Drei Lieder. In 1938 he went to Paris, and eventually made his home in the United States. He died in 1959 after a heart attack. Few recordings have been made of Zeisl's music, aside from some lieder. His Requiem ebraico was recorded in Decca's Entartete Musik series (a disk ARKIVMUSIC has resurrected). The 36-minute piano concerto didn't have its premiere until 2005 when it was played by the Saratoga, California Orchestra conducted by Jason Klein with Daniel Glover as soloist. Pierrot in the Bottle is a ballet written in 1929 based on a story by Gustav Meyrink with an oriental fantasy subject in which Zeisl utilizes some traces of ragtime and jazz . The five movements include festival music, an oriental love scene, the dance of the bats and a funeral march. However, neither the concerto or ballet have any particular distinction. The high point of the concerto is the rhapsodic second movement; there are lots of busy notes in the outer two. Surely these fine performances do what can be done for the music, and, as usual, cpo's audio is just fine.

Clara Rockmore, who helped develop the theremin, can be heard on several CDs in historic recordings of this unusual instrument made in 1975 (see REVIEW). She created magnificent sounds with the instrument often producing a humanistic aura. A different approach to the theremin can be heard on Wergo's disk called Touch! Don't Touch! featuring two contemporary masters of the instrument, Barbara Buchholz and her teacher, Lydia Kavina whose great uncle was Léon Theremin, who invented the instrument. Buchholz and Kavine are dedicated to expanding repertory for the instrument and commissioned the eight compositions on this CD, where they receive their premiere recordings. There are many surprising sounds in this music scored for two theremins and various instruments including piano, strings and percussion, and the final work, Yusupova's Kitezh-19 is for theremin and tape, a "meditation in hopeless loneliness." The recordings, made in Berlin in October 2005, vividly capture the unique sounds.

R.E.B. (June 2007)