Russian pianist opens the season of Artistic Culture    

From Estado, 22 April 2002
Translated from the original Portuguese by Monica Urian
Edited by Valour

Today the Russian pianist Nikolaï Lugansky opens the season of the Association for Artistic Culture, which is celebrating 90 years of existence . In his concert today, he is performing the Nocturnes op. 27 n.º 2 and op. 48 n.º 1 of Chopin, three pieces from the cycle Forgotten Melodies of Medtner and the 6 Moments Musicaux of Rachmaninov. Tomorrow and on Wednesday the program includes the Appassionata of Beethoven, the Six Pieces Op. 118 of Brahms and the Ballades n.º 3 and n.º 4 of Chopin.The choice of Lugansky to open the season celebrating the 90th anniversary is an allusion to the Association's tradition of always having a special place reserved for great pianists in its programs: Claudio Arrau, Arthur Rubinstein, Magdalena Tagliaferro, to cite just a few names. And Lugansky, at 29, is becoming increasingly well-known in the musical world. His talent was discovered as he played with what he calls "a very small piano", a gift from his father.

"They thought I had a good ear and I started taking lessons", he says in his interview over the phone. At 18, having already won some prizes, he replaced Maria Joao Pires in a concert and the world began to know of him, as had the juries in musical competitions such as the Bach in Leipzig, the Tschaikovsky or even the Rachmaninov. As a matter of fact, his name has been much associated with Rachmaninov and with acclaim for his interpretations of the works of this composer.

Lugansky, the last pupil of the great Russian piano pedagogue Tatiana Nikolaeva, spoke to the newspaper Estado about his career, the characteristics of Russian music and his admiration for the Brazilian Nelson Freire, whom he considers  "one of the three best pianists of today".


Estado : Where does your passion for Rachmaninov come from?

Lugansky : He is, among the Russians, my favourite composer, an artistic genius, as well as an excellent pianist. I hear his recordings, which I love, and I become more and more impressed each time. He was also a wonderful person, an example that I try to follow.


Estado : How does it feel to be considered the heir of the great Russian tradition of pianists?

Lugansky : I don't believe in that, really. I don't feel like a representative of anything; my job is to express in the best way the feelings of the composer. I think I was very lucky to be born in Russia, to have had the chance to study in the Tschaikovsky Conservatory, but I don't like to compare myself with anyone.


Estado : But is it possible to talk about a "Russian talent" in music?

Lugansky : Russian music has two main sources: folk music and the tradition of the old orthodox church. I think that in comparison with German music, for example, the Russians seek maybe less the structure and the synthesis; we are more concerned with the melody that serves as the line of the song. And this is maybe one of the main characteristics of the Russian piano: producing a sound as beautiful as that of the human voice. From what I feel, this way of thinking is closer to Latin America than any other in the world.


Estado : Is this what you admire in Nelson Freire?

Lugansky : Nelson Freire has everything and is, in my opinion, one of the best three pianists of today. He plays in a natural way, natural as life itself, the forest or water. And on top of this there is enormous virtuosity and a magnificent sound, either in the pianissimos or in the fortissimos, which is very difficult to find. My impression is that he simply listens to the music and it becomes part of him, coming out naturally at the piano. 


Estado : Russian artists from former generations used to say that, during a certain period under the Soviet regime, it was necessary to leave the country in order to develop your technique and career. Is the situation different today?

Lugansky : I love my country, even knowing that life has become very different and difficult during the last ten years. This is a rather personal kind of choice, but I find, as one philosopher said, it is easier to love the beauties of one's country than to love a country submerged in crisis. Many musicians left; others, like Pletnev, stayed and were successful within the country. I do not intend to leave Russia, where I have my family and friends, although each year I spend approximately six or seven months touring abroad.

The Nikolai Lugansky Web Site