Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Prelude in C sharp minor, Opus 3 No. 2
Ten Preludes, Opus 23
Six Moments musicaux, Opus 16

Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Rec 18-22 September 2000, Teldec Studio, Berlin
Erato 85738 57702 [65.28]


Crotchet £10.99  AmazonUK £13.99 

Nikolai Lugansky undoubtedly has the technique for Rachmaninov's taxing piano music. The composer conceived it all with himself in mind, of course, and made his demands accordingly. On this new disc those demands are met with huge technical accomplishment.

The recording sessions for Erato were undertaken at the Teldec Studio in Berlin, using an impressive-sounding Steinway instrument in just the right acoustic for this repertoire. Capturing an appropriate sound for a piano recital is by no means easy, but the engineers have been pretty successful on this occasion. Try one of the most impressive tracks on the disc, the G minor Alla marcia Prelude from Opus 23, in which the effect is frankly thrilling: no other word will do. This of course is also because the playing deserves the same enthusiastic adjective, with the rhythmic drive and phrasing heard in an excellently delivered balance.

This is typical of the whole recital, in the sense that Lugansky has the measure of the rhythmic tautness which is so central to Rachmaninov's style in faster music. How fond of martial rhythms this composer is.

It is in the more complex emotions of the slower numbers that a few doubts begin to creep in. The sonorities and the careful control of dynamics are always assured, but sometimes the phrasing misses the poetic opportunities in a way that the playing of, say, Vladimir Ashkenazy (on Decca) does not.

This is not a major cavil, but it is a concern for those collectors who aim to have just the one performance of any given composition. For Lugansky is by no means 'definitive'. He is however, particularly interesting in the way his playing and his technical prowess open up textural details in the complex expressiveness of pieces like the six Moments musicaux. These are by no means the most celebrated among Rachmaninov's piano compositions, but they do have abundant subtleties, which the combination of secure technique and excellent recorded sound does much to uncover. However, there might be more poetry and feeling in the phrasing.

Perhaps all this is another way of saying that these are a young man's performances. How will Lugansky perform these pieces ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now? The temptation is to suggest that he, like the rest of us, will gain insight and wisdom with the passing years. But for now, he can still feel rather pleased with what he has achieved.

Terry Barfoot

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