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Seen and Heard Recital Review

 

Beethoven, Chopin, Prokofiev Nikolaï Lugansky (piano), Wigmore Hall, 1pm, Monday January 23rd, 2005 (CC)


Nikolaï Lugansky has been creating a name for himself via his recordings on Warner Classics, so it was revealing to hear him in the flesh.


Lugansky raised his game as the recital progressed, but Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ sonata was an interesting choice, made a little clearer by the announcement in the programme sheet that one of his forthcoming releases on Warner will be of Beethoven Sonatas (which ones was left unspecified). The famous first movement began with a rather disconcerting plonk that did not bode well at all. An organ-like bass represented Lugansky’s attempt to inject gravitas to Beethoven’s misty triplets, yet this somnambulistic and plodding account really failed to make an impression. Wit was in short supply in the Allegretto, while point-making and manufactured ornamentation in the (perhaps predictably) fast and furious finale lent a studied demeanour to what can be one of Beethoven’s most exciting finales.


Chopin’s Fourth Ballade fared better, although here too Lugansky’s easing in to the work seemed learned rather than spontaneous. At least there was passion here, and the dry Russian-based way of playing seemed really rather apposite. But it was Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata that actually showed us what all the fuss is about. Lugansky’s rhythmic sense impelled the first movement ever onwards, yet left space for a positively bleak second subject. More, Lugansky caught the disturbed wistful versus clockwork basis of the second movement to perfection, and found that lovely bittersweet side of Prokofiev in the third. The finale revealed just how quickly Lugansky can shift moods, chameleon-like.


Worth it for the Prokofiev, there were a couple of encores (some Rachmaninov, the G sharp minor Prelude, Op. 32 No. 12, and the Chopin Etude in F major, Op. 10 No. 8). If only the rest of the programme had lived up to this.


Colin Clarke

 

 

 



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