Music review: Nikolai Lugansky
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Nikolai Lugansky at The Queen’s Hall, reviewed by Kenneth Walton
It’s hard to approach a Nikolai Lugansky recital with anything other than high expectations, such is the stature and consistency of this dazzling Russian pianist. Sure enough, no disappointments yesterday in a programme so consummate in content – works by Janácek, Schubert, Rachmaninov and Liszt – it was guaranteed to reveal the exhaustive range of Lugansky’s expressive vocabulary.
It was a pity that eruptions of coughing killed the opening atmosphere of Janácek’s In the Mists, but once things settled the sheer magic of this music, from its initial fitful elusiveness to its growing complexity of pungent sonorities, was utterly gripping.
Schubert’s Four Impromptus, D935 followed, and a trenchantly unsentimental approach by Lugansky that made the strongest case for this being a full-blown sonata in all but name. Expressively, he made an equally strong case for the intruding glimpses of darkness and the rippling liquidity of the third movement variations.
The second half was all power play, opening with a spine-tingling selection of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux, before closing with the unfettered virtuosity of Liszt’s Les jeux d’eau à la Ville d’Este and his transcription of Wagner’s Liebestod for Tristan and Isolde. Easy meat for Lugansky.
Originally published in The Scotsman