Interpretations of Frederic Chopin by Evgeny Kissin
and Nikolai Lugansky - grandiose contrasts

From Der Tagesspiegel, May 20th, 2000
Written by Frederik Hanssen
Translated from the original German by Ernst Lumpe
Edited by Valour

They're young, they're Russian, they play piano music by Frederic Chopin. But that's just about all that connects Evgeny Kissin with Nikolai Lugansky. One could easily place a concert grand in the gap between their approaches to interpretation. When Kissin, the wild youngster with the penetrating glare, plays Chopin one would believe that traces of gunsmoke are left on the keys. From the first of the 24 Preludes to the B Flat minor Funeral March Sonata through to the Polonaise in A flat concluding his new CD, every note glows with fire: Chopin as a great fire spreading relentlessly through the pieces.



He who made his first public appearance as a 12-year old, and four years later was hailed as the sensation of the Berlin Festival, leaves no doubt that in a modern concert grand, hammers strike steel strings to make sound. The interpretive approaches of his new Chopin album doubtlessly border on the extreme, but they are always thrilling in a way that invites the listener to be involved. For apart from Kissin's breathtaking technical command of the instrument, apart from the three-dimensional effects in the chordal passages in which he gives every single voice its own acoustic place in the space of sounds, his passion carries his playing far beyond every claptrap of the keyboard lion's kind. However mighty, penetrating and gripping to a listener's heart these melodies may be, hollow pathos is absent from them. In the softest, most introverted as well as massive chordal passages, Kissin pulsates with tremendous vital force, sings with a voice of honest and true feelings. Kissin plays "Chopin c'est moi". Thy subjects greet thee.


The idea of luring Nikolai Lugansky out onto a balcony by a loud chorus of cheers would probably never occur to his fans. Rather, they would want to protect him from the enraptured mob outside. The gentlest breeze would be sufficient to destroy the sound-constructions of the 27-year-old pianist. That a Steinway grand, whose metallic brilliance has indoctrinated our ears for decades, could sound so mellow, so weightless, is almost beyond belief - and all this within the Opus 10 and Opus 25 Etudes and the Trois Nouvelles Etudes. What dexterity, what delicacy! Everything, even the most subordinate voice, becomes an event with Nikolai Lugansky. As if played effortlessly by a magical third hand, the melody soars above the perfectly even interplay of chords in Opus 25 No. 4. The most outrageous, tortuous studies are whisked off as though they were shades from the Land of Blessed Spirits.



Nikolai Lugansky fuses pianistic mastery with the utmost refinement and taste. He practices virtuoso-understatement by playing down the exorbitant difficulties of Chopin's study-pieces to the point where experts and music lovers become almost dizzy. And neither is his Chopin a saint, approachable only by a pilgrim, nor is he the composer of poetry books, appearing on the trail of a blossoming young girl. No - Lugansky's Chopin, floating over the waters, in its own way illuminates the composer's essence as well as Kissin's firebrands. These grandiosely contrasting recordings confirm that there is no "definitive" Chopin. How splendid. Two souls, one heart - the listener's ultimate joy.

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