There are never more than three viola virtuosos in the world, and each has two obstacles to overcome. First is the modest volume of the viola and its lugubrious tone. The second is the lack of solo repertoire. Maxim Rysanov has solved the first obstacle beautifully - his sound is refined, his style musical, and his tone violin-like. He doesn't strive for greater volume, which is fairly impossible, but instead phrases so personally that your ear is captivated. (Yuri Bashmet, the most famous violist in the world, has declared, "He's another me!") to overcome the second obstacle, the lack of repertoire, Rysanov has devised various transcriptions from violin and cello works, as he's done here with these familiar Schubert and Tchaikovsky works.
The Arpeggione Sonata comes off best, I think. Replacing the piano with a string orchestra provides a uniform background that blends nicely with the viola, and the solo part can be made to lie gracefully for the soloist. Rysanov's interpretation is flowing and lyrical for the most part - he's turned the whole score into a kind of serenade - and the viola is naturally more nimble in the faster passages. His phrasing is sensitive but also lively, and I came away feeling that a very effective addition had been made to the viola repertoire. Bashmet has his own recording, with piano, but it's almost somber by comparison. Rysanov's sunniness is unique in my experience.
I'm not as enthusiastic about the Rococo Theme and Variations as transposed for cello. Sometimes the voicing of an instrument really matters; for that reason, viola transcriptions of the Elgar Cello Cto., for example, sound rather flimsy. Here Tchaikovsky heard a cello in is head, and moving the line upward seems to deprive the music of mellowness and weight. Defenders might argue that Rysanov adds elegance of the kind that fits a rococo theme. I can't really judge, in large part because I never liked the original very much to begin with. The album ends with an obscure viola work, not a transcription, Bruch's Romanze Op. 85, which falls into the camp of many another Romantic song for a solo instrument. One of the violin's great strengths is its resemblance to a singing voice, and the viola, with its whiny, resiny tone, doesn't share that quality. Rysanov is extremely musical, but as hard as he tries to sing, the line doesn't soar as it would on the violin, any more than the Beethoven or Brahms concerto would.
Other listeners may be completely satisfied, of course, but I'd recommend getting to know this admirable artist through true viola music first, such as the two Brahms sonatas, which he has recorded beautifully (each is packaged with more transcriptions, however).