Nikolai Lugansky plays Prokofiev

From Klassik Heute, April 2004
Written by Peter Cosse
Translated from the original German by G. Pelletier
Edited by Valour

At present, there are plenty of outstanding piano recordings : Andras Schiff with the « Goldberg Variations » (ECM), Till Fellner with the « Well-tempered Klavier » part 1 (ECM), Reger’s seldom played piano duet Tal – Groethuysen (Sony) and Beethoven’s sonatas by Michael Korstick (Ars Musici) among the most important ones. And now once again we come across a highly intelligent and powerful interpretation, that of Russian pianist Nikolaï Lugansky, whose former recordings at Vanguard had already aroused interest and whose previous performances in Chopin and Rachmaninov at Erato were praised all over the world and even described in terms reminiscent of hymns.

The Prokofiev recordings which have just been released show more than a deep understanding of the musical dramatic work; they confirm an affinity with both of the two so-different sonatas – a very strong and absolutely inevitable link – and the variations of the Romeo and Juliet Suite. Concerning the “War Sonata”Op.82 we must use the already wonderful performances of Sviatoslav Richter and the 14-year-old Kissin to be able to assess the true value of Nikolaï Lugansky’s incredible aesthetic and accurate way of playing. The direct sound recording, adjusted to bright tones, contributes to an impression of a terrifically sharp and alert pianistic performance which lets a bit of the atmosphere disappear in several of the darker moments of the ballet music and also in the farewell of the final scene (Op75,10). Comparison with the previous Decca Ashkenazy recording confirms this feeling. Nevertheless it doesn’t change a thing concerning the exceptional level of this recording, with which Lugansky reaches first rank among Prokofiev performers (alongside Richter, Gilels and Pletnev).

The Nikolai Lugansky Web Site