Enthusiastic response to the Moscow Philharmonic
Masters' Concert in Aix-la Chapelle

From Aachener Zeitung , 19 November 2000 
Written by Thomas Beaujean
Translated from the original German by Felix Delbruck
; Edited by Valour

It was in grand style and on a grand scale that the Moscow Philharmonic appeared as part of the series of Masters' Concerts. Under the baton of its Music Director, Yuri Simonov, the orchestra, assembled in large forces, presented two works from the great Russian orchestral repertoire: Tchaikovsky's second piano concerto in G major and a suite from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet. One rarely played, the other popular. A healthy mixture, in other words.

The soloist, Nikolai Lugansky, had also been brought along from Moscow. The young pianist easily takes his place in the long line of great pianists that Russia, inexhaustible reservoir of talent that it is, has continued to produce. With relaxed arms, he unleashed the most hair-raising passages and succeeded in defying the massed power of the huge orchestra, without letting the piano sound forced, even for an instant.

Wonderful was the slow movement, which expanded to a triple concerto of sorts as Lugansky held back and allowed the first violin and cello to take center stage in exemplary performances. All in all, an interpretation of grand gestures, from the orchestra as well as the soloist - one which emphasized the concerto's virtuoso character. The fact that Lugansky is also a poet of the piano, who caresses the keys and is able to let a cantilena shine, was demonstrated by the middle section of the G minor prelude of Sergei Rachmaninoff, which he played as an encore.

Even if one is of the opinion that Prokofiev wrote better things than his boldly effective music to Romeo and Juliet, for all the virtuosity of its orchestration, one cannot deny that the performance by the Moscow Philharmonic was brilliant and showed the orchestra at its best. Yuri Simonov's impressively dance-like and pantomimic performance on the podium ensured that the balletic aspects of the score were not lost.

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