Reviews & Sound Clips
"Nikolai Lugansky's arresting start to Prokofiev's Sixth Sonata, with its chill of presentiment and bitter harmony, emphatically catches the music's mood and instantly gives notice that this is going to be a performance commanding attention .... His performances, which have an unswerving structural coherence, are also full of illuminating touches, resulting from deep thought about the music and conveyed with compelling character. An outstanding disc."
--- Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2004
"Like Shostakovich, Prokofiev reacted to the cataclysmic events of the Second World War by producing some of his most powerful works - the deeply affecting 'War Sonatas'. The hugely gifted Nikolai Lugansky tears into the opening Sixth sonata with such conviction that one is immediately forced to take notice. The Fourth is no less arresting, while the Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet amply showcase Lugansky's more lyrical side."
--- Andrew Clarke, The Independent, 13 March 2004
"... Prokofiev's Fourth Sonata allows more room for the naturally paced introspection - underlining the 'unknown gesture, the soft persistent word' of the Quint side to the composer's complex temperament - at which Lugansky excels. His Romeo and Juliet sequence too, having tumbled to dazzlingly characterized, orchestral-sounding 'Masks' and 'Mercutio' ends with the same easy spaciousness. It seems amazing that in a pianist who has no difficulties at all with the most formidable technical demands at the end of each sonata, this should be the quality we treasure most."
--- David Nice, BBC Music, April 2004
"This is music that thrives on lashings of pianistic colour, timbral ingenuity and an ability to sustain textural interest in even the most thunderous of passages - qualities that Nikolai Lugansky possesses in abundance. Normal mortals are usually relieved enough merely to get around the notes of the Sixth Sonata, but Lugansky sounds like a man with an extra hand, so miraculously does he conjure up ear-tweaking combinations of sounds under wrist-crippling technical pressure. His rare ability to find interest in even the most subdued of textures pays real dividends in the fourth sonata, while the playful musical asides of R&J also come leaping off the page. Indeed, Lugansky's flawless execution of the young Juliet's scamperings is borderline unbelievable. A remarkable disc. "
"In the Sixth Sonata (the first of Prokofiev's three so-called 'War Sonatas'), Lugansky's vision easily encompasses this work's panoramic scale. Of other pianists I've heard in this sonata, Lugansky's 'widescreen' grasp of the music is shared only by Sviatoslav Richter. And, like Richter, Lugansky can summon awesome power without creating the faintest sensation of pounding on the keys. "
--- Raymond S. Tuttle, International Record Review, May 2004
"Nikolai Lugansky has pulled it off again, spinning through some of the thorniest piano repertoire in existence with a grace and musicality that is largely unrivalled. In two Prokofiev sonatas and the ten pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Lugansky tosses off a circus full of feats of strength, tight-rope acrobatics, and courageous lion taming; the sonatas are most definitely not your usual background listening, but Lugansky's unique ability to wrap himself around the form and to govern Prokofiev's aggressive rhythmic and tonal spirit is astonishing. In R & J, the listener gets dessert: Lugansky dances through these lighter but equally virtuosic works with charm and spirit. "
--- David Simmons, WQXR, June 2004
"Lugansky's Prokofiev is a winner: three major works played with virtuosity, power and, where necessary, delicacy, along with scrupulous attention to the score.... A treasurable disc. "
"Nikolai Lugansky has released some superb recordings, and his new Prokofiev disc shows the Russian pianist once again in impressive form. Lugansky's mammoth technique enables him to conquer the daunting technical demands of the Piano Sonata No. 6, the first of Prokofiev's trilogy of 'War Sonatas.' Lugansky invests the aggressive opening movement with combustible forward momentum, but also finds a limpid poetry in the angular solace of the third movement waltz. His speed and flaming virtuosity in the finale are staggering in their percussive headlong brilliance.
"Lugansky is equally inspired in the Sonata No. 4, a somber work written in memory of a Conservatory friend who committed suicide. The unease and restless rumination of the Andante is especially well captured.
"The generous 76-minute disc is rounded out with the Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet. Lugansky's charm and intimate poetry show just how effective this piano reduction of music from Prokofiev's celebrated ballet can be, even divorced from the impact of a full orchestra. Each section is colorfully and precisely characterized, from the skipping high spirits of 'The Young Juliet' to the malign accents of 'The Montagues and Capulets' and the unhinged bravura of 'Mercutio.' "
"This is quite simply one of the most exciting Prokofieff recordings I have ever encountered. What I appreciate about Lugansky's playing is his attention to detailed articulation, in spite of breathtaking tempos. Like Kissin, he is intent on the declamation of every idea. But where Kissin crafts each phrase as if to say, "Okay, did you get that?" Lugansky assumes that one understands and moves the music forward unrelentingly. This is most obvious in the second and last movements of the 6th Sonata, perhaps the strongest performance on the program. Like the movement 'Masks' from the Romeo and Juliet Suite (also recorded here), II is a kind of "stomp dance", with sharp, punctuated staccatos and a cleverly juxtaposed melody. The pianist balances the two elements with impeccable charm and orchestral color, never letting the active accompaniments crush their melodic counterparts. The character was such that it was all I could do to stay in my seat. In the last movement, Lugansky gives us one of the most stunning technical displays imaginable. Just when you think he has given his all, he saves something for the end. Remarkable. The recorded sound is vibrant and realistic, and the piano is wonderful. I have few reservations and highly recommend this recording, especially if you do not already know this brilliant pianist."
--- Bolen, American Record Guide, September 2004
"The Prokofiev program begins with a stunning account of the Sixth Sonata, the first of three sonatas composed during World War II. This volatile work veers among aggressive bombast, pungent marches, sly parody and, in the finale, dizzying humor - rather like frenzied music for some silent movie comedy. Mr. Lugansky plays with total command, vivid imagination and, at times, terrifying power. His accounts of the Neo-Classical Fourth Sonata and of 10 pieces from the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" in Prokofiev's own arrangement are also gripping."
"Nikolai Lugansky, according to the program notes for his Prokofiev CD, "is a keen chess player." Perhaps that has a bearing on his strategic approach to this tricky, demanding music, which combines the brash with the sensitive, the beautiful with the abrasive, and demands great skill throughout. Lugansky finds and explores the subtexts in the sonatas, and lets Romeo and Juliet dance, unfettered."