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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16 [30:55]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 [28:20]
Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano
rec. February 2013 Jesus Christ Church, Berlin Dahlem, Germany
NAÏVE AMBROISIE AM210 [59:19]


As one of the most recorded piano concertos of all time the catalogue contains a considerable number of recommendable accounts of the Grieg Concerto. Recordings of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 are by no means as frequent but of those available the classic 1967 Berlin account played by Martha Argerich is dominant.
 
On vacation in the summer of 1868 Grieg a young married man with a new baby daughter wrote his Piano Concerto. Of an instantly cheerful and inspiring disposition the score seems to reflect Grieg’s happy time domestically and marks a significant creative point in the composer’s life. In my collection of Grieg’s A minor Concerto my two preferred accounts are the 1963 Berlin played by Géza Anda and the Berliner Philharmoniker under Rafael Kubelik on Deutsche Grammophon and from soloist Leif Ove Andsnes with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Mariss Jansons recorded in 2002 in Berlin on EMI Classics.
 
Sadly Lugansky is mightily disappointing in the Grieg with the opening Allegro molto moderato short of vitality. A curious sense of constraint and a rather measured pace do not help. I admire the soloist’s clean crisp playing of the Adagio but unfortunately none of the spine-tingling passion that can be achieved is present. Despite some robust playing in the Finale the required sense of fluency was missing. However, I did enjoy the splendour of the closing section marked Andante maestoso. Overall this account is underpowered and lacks a sense of grandeur when compared to the marvellous recordings by Anda/Kubelik and Andsnes/Jansons. 
During his exile from Soviet Russia, Prokofiev in the summer of 1921 was holidaying on the French coast at Brittany whilst working his Piano Concerto No. 3. A brilliant work that boldly makes its presence felt it is not too difficult to imagine the music as an expression of the turbulence battering the composer’s homeland. 
It is hard for any new recording to compete with the quite stunning 1967 Berlin account that Martha Argerich made with Abbado. Lugansky seems much more at home in the Prokofiev than the Grieg and opens the Andante - Allegro with a sense of mystery followed by considerable liveliness. Some satisfyingly assured playing in the theme and variations precedes a strongly energetic Finale.Despite a commendable and generous effort by Lugansky he is unable to match the boldness and power, and communicative quality of the Argerich.
 
Pleasing support from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Kent Nagano comes across as colourful and especially sensitive to the soloist. Recorded at the Jesus Christ Church, Berlin/Dahlem, a renowned studio location, the engineers have provided a pleasing, well balanced sound quality.
 
Michael Cookson 

Masterwork Index: Grieg concerto

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