A Memorable Duo

Recital in Brazil; 3 June,1997
Article written by Adelia Maria Marelin
Translated from the original Portugese by Concepcion Diaz 
Edited by Valour

Phenomenon ! This is the only way to describe the performance of the Russian pianists Vadim Rudenko and Nikolai Lugansky, in  the palace of the Theatro Castro Alves on the third of June. There is no other word. Russian artists had always come to the West confirming and transcending expectations with the boundless talent, charisma and ability they rightfully possess.  It is impossible to doubt the degree of excellence the Russians have reached in the the arts, especially music and classical ballet. Historically, these artistic achievements had always relied upon the full support of the existing authorities in Russia. If, at the present time, Russian artists no longer find their activities managed principally or entirely by the State, then surely they will have no difficulties managing their careers alone, as artists of capitalist nations had always done.

The duo of Russian pianists Vadim Rudenko and Nikolai Lugansky represents the living tradition of 150 years of pianism in Russia. Vadim Rudenko won a prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition in Belgium after spending three years without studying in a Siberian village; he was performing military service to become part of the elite of the Soviet army. Nikolai Lugansky, also very young, won the famous Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. That is to say, while he was still a student, the gates of the most discriminating concert halls were opened to him. Both had studied in the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow with the pianist Sergei Dorensky, idolized in Brazil ever since he won the International Competition of Rio De Janeiro in 1958. Dorensky came twice to Bahia at the invitation of the Society of Artistic Culture of Brazil, moving the public with his virtuosity of touch. At the Conservatory, Dorensky has an extraordinary class: 14 pupils who have won a total of 18 first prizes in important international competitions. Rudenko and Lugansky began playing together during breaks between lessons, for fun and for relaxation from the hard discipline of the studies that occupy all the pupils' days. By chance, a Japanese entrepreneur heard the first public performance of the duo at the concert hall of the Conservatory, and he immediately booked them for a major  tour of Japan. However, in order to protect their careers as soloists in full ascension, Rudenko and Lugansky limit, as much as possible, their appearances as a duo during the concert season.

A piano duo is a rare formation in concerts . It demands special conditions in order to work.  The pianos must of the same make, size, loudness and, above all, tuning. In the palace, the arrangement of the pianos for the concerts - side by side, keyboards at the edges - is suggestive of a modern representation of the ancient Roman god Janus with his two opposing faces. The repertoire, equally rare, revealed genuine treasures of the  piano literature, originally written for two pianos or transcribed from works for orchestra or another instrumental arrangement.

Rudenko and Lugansky had played the Suite nš 1 for Two Pianos of Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943); La Valse, choreographic poem by Maurice Ravel (1875-1037), written for two pianos before the composer wrote the orchestral version; a transcription of the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite, Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), and the Sonata for Two Pianos, of Francois Poulenc (1899-1963). When performing all these works, the duo elevated the art of pianism to the quintessence of perfection and emotion. It was as if there were, within the pianos, an orchestra of birds, all chirping individually or in groups to demonstrate the magic of the characteristic song of their respective species. In this piano-orchestra one could hear perfectly the full ranges of instruments, from strings to woodwinds, brasses and percussion. Led by a desire to transcend the actual limitations of the piano, Rudenko and Lugansky had enriched the instrument's sound with a wide spectrum of timbres. 

Vadim Rudenko and Nikolai Lugansky are like stars, each born with their own light among the galaxies. As pianists they are very different from each other, both in physical type and musical temperament. However when playing as a duo they harmonize in such a way that it is impossible for listeners to identify them by touch, save for the finger, arm and hand movements of each one. They had the opportunity to develop, in their native country, all their artistic and cultural qualities so that they can now achieve the objective of communicating through music in a world which increasingly calls for abolition of national borders.

In the performance by this duo of young Russian pianists in the palace of the Castro Theater Alves in 1997, there is a lesson in life and a lesson in hope; Vadim Rudenko and Nikolai Lugansky provide solid proof that a well-conducted education enables men to walk with certainty on the unknown roads of tomorrow.

Lugansky & Rudenko