Steppe on it and don't spare the piano
Wigmore Hall, London
Times, 31 January, 1996
Reviewer - Hilary Finch
FOR good and ill, the wheel turns. Scarcely have we finished mourning the great Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva, than her pupil Nikolai Lugansky, now 24 and winner of the 1994 Tchaikovsky Competition, begins to light the concert platforms of London.
There was something of the great lioness Nikolayeva there in the firm, relaxed arm weight of the left-hand chords in the slow movement of Beethoven's Tempest Sonata, answered by a clear, rounded song of right-hand recitative.
His dedication to Rachmaninov also rang out from six of his Preludes. The Op 23 No 1 was a hypnotic patterning of variegated pianissimo; his Op 32 No 12 warmed by lively peddling, yet crystalline of definition. Octaves leapt high from the Op 23 No 5 Alla marcia only to curve into a sleek, single line of rubato in No 4.
Neither virtuoso flourish nor rolling rubato ever takes place in Lugansky's playing for flamboyant effect alone. Rather it is assimilated into the music's own heartbeat; and nowhere more so than in Scriabin's Second Sonata. Fanciful, whimsical, and mixed from a daring palette of tone colours, this was a true Sonata-fantasie. Lugansky's recital ended with Prokofiev's Sonata No 6, moving from those firmly sprung, coiled rhythms to the reflective logic of its waltz and the morose merriment of its last movement.
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