From Danas , December 2000
Written by Zorica Kojic
Translated by Elis Missoni
Edited by Valour
Just before the New Year and Millennium, the Belgrade Philharmonic completed the triad of its miraculous resurrection in 2000 with the final concert of this year's Davidoff Concert Season in Sava Centre. To remind ourselves: first Uros Lajovic directed Mihailovic's rarely-heard Memento and Brahms, then Mehta with his triumphant Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and now it is maestro Aleksandr Sladkovsky (1965) and the inimitable Nikolai Lugansky with a powerful and all-around solid interpretation of Rachmaninoff.
Oh yes - you should have grabbed your seats when the monumental airplane of the Second Symphony in E minor took off in all its glory, giving the audience a desire to revisit each of its striking movements, but with great pleasure in this endeavour. Because here is Sladkovsky, irresistably, energetically rousing and taming the frenetic sea of the symphony. In his new position, he also brings a new lease of life to the orchestra. And even though the musicians showed some rigidity in minor details, in those finer points that connoisseurs would notice, they nonetheless fought to put their hearts into the music. They tackled the symphony, swallowing the instructions of their young conductor. Wind soloists completed the performance while the whole ensemble took a deep breath, gritted its teeth, attacked and retreated with visible determination.
But then came Nikolai Lugansky! More than a year and a half after his superb performance at BEMUS in 1999, Lugansky entered the stage looking modest and serious - a lovely Russian youth - only to transform into a truly diabolical angel a moment later. In the famous, demoniacal Third Concerto in D minor, holding it by virtue of his strength in the introductory theme, he immediately 'horseshoed' it with bare iron, granite and diamond-hard edges, and stunned and moved at the same time with boundless pianistic power.
Alright, so he will not make you cry by playing a sentimental card. But because of that, his Rachmaninoff is an imposing work, from whichever angle you look at it - impenetrable and unbreakable as a rock, on its surface. From its depths erupt volcanoes, ice storms and infernal tornadoes of human suffering and awe. Because this is Nikolai Lugansky - philosopher, architect, athletic owner of the most precious and coveted pair of hands in the piano world, from its peaks to its dark mine-shafts, not to mention its quarries. Shall we say, he emerges as Spartacus the Victor ?
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