Russian Brilliance

A review of two concerts given in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 2 & 3 December 1999
From La Nacion, 6th December 1999
Written by Hector Coda
Translated from the original Spanish by Concepcion Diaz
Edited by Valour

The two performances of the Russian National Orchestra, directed by Vladimir Spivakov, made for a brilliant conclusion to the present season of Harmonia 99 offered by the Coliseum Foundation.The offered programs, entirely of Russian composers, brought for the second time to this city maestro Spivakov, an exceptional violinist who has a distinguished conducting career, and for the first time, a talented representative of the young generation of Russian pianists, Nikolai Lugansky. There is no other way to describe Lugansky, judging by the shining performances that he gave as soloist in which he was ovationed repeatedly and enthusiastically by the public of Harmonia, in the concertos for piano and orchestra of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky - works made popular by eminent international artists.


An excellent interpreter  

Lugansky had his first opportunity in the Concerto No. 3 of Rachmaninov, a mature composition dedicated to the great pianist Josef Hoffman, and one of the most perilous works in the piano repertoire. His second great moment came in an outstanding version of the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 which conveyed personal details in sharp focus.

Here is a pianist of powerful technical means and the special sensitivity to translate the rich idiomatic language of Rachmaninov, for all its complex textures, abundance of notes, rich chromaticism, and sensual melodic lines.

Lugansky showed that he possesses a rich musical temperament founded upon beautiful pianism and an exhaustive command of technique, reconciled with naturalness and noble sound . There was no harshness in the numerous intricate passages of the work, in which very often the instrument had to prevail over the fortissimos of the orchestra. The control he exerts over the dynamics is perfect, and he applies this intelligently within the expressive framework, whatever the difficulty or speed of the passages he must execute. He confers to the singing themes an intense lyricism, as occurred in the first movement and in the subsequent Intermezzo of variations on beautiful melodic inspiration. The final movement, with its lively Russian dance rhythms, was followed from the piano with surprisingly diverse touches of filigreed vivacity, resulting in a finale of overwhelming vitality.


Adaptability and sonic balance

Remarkable adaptability and sonic balance were maintained by orchestra and soloist, both in this work and in the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 offered on the second night. The romantic and grandiloquent expression of the work, its symphonic texture, its intense dynamism and ample lyricism were delivered with natural sincerity and subtle refinement, completely free of pomposity or sentimentality. Lugansky demonstrated that he knows very well how to dose his energies, whether playing with vehemence or ardor .

Somewhat personal, but still in keeping with the style, was Lugansky's rendition of the Andantino semplice that followed, with its rapid staccato chords. His splendid sound and remarkable virtuosity were displayed to fine effect in the central Prestissimo. The final Allegro con Fuoco had an uncommon radiance. As an encore, he chose a Rachmaninov Prelude.

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