Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonic Etudes. Piano Sonata No. 1. Toccata
Nikolai Lugansky (pn)
PIANO CLASSICS PCL0029 (67:34)
Nikolai Lugansky is a 40-year-old Russian pianist who early-on showed great promise by winning the 1994 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. He has since toured throughout the world to great acclaim. The current disc is supportive of his successful career.
Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes is an extraordinary set of 18 brief variations (the final variation is not really brief)
in C?-Minor that comprises Schumann’s op. 13. On this disc, four of the five variations deleted by, presumably, Schumann some years after initial publication but later restored by Brahms are included: Variations 4 and 5 between Etudes 7 and 8, and Variations 1 and 2 between Etudes 8 and 9. Lugansky’s omission of Variation 3 is not explained. Other than this omission, Lugansky’s performance is exemplary both technically and interpretively. From the slow, serious
theme and the rhythmic
un poco più vivo
Etude 1 through the light-textured
Etude 3 to the bouncy
Etude 5 and the lyrical Variation 2, Lugansky treats the listener to a Schumann recital that represents the composer at his pianistic best. The extended final variation concludes this superb performance triumphantly.
The F?-Minor Piano Sonata (No. 1) is unconventional as a sonata (although it has a four-movement, sonata-like structure) in that it further abandons the stricter structural constraints of the sonata already begun to be loosened by Beethoven. This early (op. 11) sonata is endlessly interesting, but perhaps also exasperating, in its form and content. Use of erratic rhythms, especially in the third and fourth movements, suggests both humor and instability. The rhythmic pulse of the chords in the fourth movement is reminiscent of the second movement of Schubert’s F-Minor Piano Sonata, and other fourth-movement phrases remind one of the first movement of this Schubert sonata. For me this is music to be heard infrequently, but not to be ignored.
The Toccata provides the perpetual motion of a merry chase, which is a good conclusion to this Schumann recital disc. This is a good CD to have in one’s collection, and Nikolai Lugansky is a pianist whose contributions should be part of everyone’s experience.
FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
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