Friday night, Arcadi Volodos, the next (your-favorite-dead-pianist's-name-here), made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Surprisingly, the widely touted young Russian's reputation did not precede him in sufficient measure to fill the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for what was one of only two performances.
The stay-aways, however, probably will be hearing about it for a long time to come. Anticipation can be a cruel burden for an artist, but this seemed like a win-win situation for Volodos. High expectations were fulfilled, and those who came doubting anyone could live up to the hype received not only the joy of the playing but also a fillip of astonishment--it's all true, he is the next legend-to-be.
His vehicle was the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, a piece easy to please with, but hard to overwhelm with. Battalions of other pianists, after all, are regularly heard to good effect in it.
Few, though, seem as at ease in it as Volodos. His early training was as a singer, and he phrases even the most idiomatically mechanical passages with rare clarity of sound and purpose. His personality is assured and apparent, bolstered by power, precision and expressive grace.