> Frederic Chopin - 24 preludes [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Ballade No. 3 in A flat, Opus 47
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Opus 52
Nocturne in D flat, Opus 27 No. 2
Nocturne in C minor, Opus 48 No. 1
Nocturne in E, Opus 62 No. 2
24 Préludes, Opus 28
Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Recorded 20-24 April 2001, Teldec Berlin Studios
ERATO 0927 42836-2 [75.00] [TB]


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Following his well received Rachmaninov disc, Nikolai Lugansky performs an excellent Chopin programme which confirms him as one of the leading pianistic talents of the day. As a protégé of the late lamented Tatiana Nikolaieva, he received plenty of support in moving towards an international career, and he also gained the first prize in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1994.

These performances bring out the intense emotionalism of Chopin, which is not to suggest that they lack discipline. Quite the opposite in fact, since it was this composer's achievement to use development and in particular decoration to telling structural and emotional effect. Lugansky communicates all this, whether it be in the smaller scale world of the Nocturnes, or in the extended flow of the great set of Préludes, Opus 28. If ever there was a case in music of the whole sequence being more than the sum of the parts, this is surely it. And at the highest level it is the most telling way of judging a pianist's achievement.

It is a challenge Lugansky meets head on. His view of these 'collected miniatures as large scale work' is at once sure and convincing, and founded upon a marvellous technique. It is of course a tribute to Chopin that the most formidable technical challenge is never less than musical, so that at this level of performance the emotional interpretative insights begin to come flooding in.

There is no lack of intense rhetoric, of dazzling virtuosity, but it is always in the service of structural command. Lugansky is helped by a recording which successfully combines clarity, atmosphere and impact; and as such the great C minor Nocturne, Opus 48 No. 1, makes a particularly potent effect.

The two Ballades likewise have abundant subtleties, and a real sweep of momentum, such is the urgent communication involved. There are other ways of playing this music, no doubt, and they would generally be more relaxed (Artur Rubinstein comes to mind), but Lugansky has a great deal to offer.

Yet whatever the rights and wrongs of the other performances, it will probably be for the Préludes that this disc will be known. Certainly the Erato marketing team think so, with the remaining works getting little attention on the cover. Above all it is the telling sweep of momentum, the unity of the entire conception, which stays in the mind. Some of the more relaxed pieces could certainly have gained from a more pleasing sense of line, when taken individually perhaps. But taken as a whole, the flow of the performance becomes increasingly compelling and the listener becomes more and more convinced.

Terry Barfoot

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