Rachmaninoff: Preludes, Op. 23 & Op. 3/2; Moments musicaux, Op. 16

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninoff
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Preludes, Op. 23 & Op. 3/2; Moments musicaux, Op. 16
PERFORMER: Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85770-2
This Rachmaninoff feast is a serious fix for every Russophile. The young Lugansky has a gargantuan talent and a heritage to match. A former pupil of Tatiana Nikolaeva, he brings to this music a dark, velvety tone full of power, spacious phrasing that draws – as Rachmaninoff did – on the style of the great Russian singers, and, of course, he’s a breathtaking virtuoso. His intensity in the famous C sharp minor Prelude cannot help but blow the listener’s socks off and the central section of the G minor ‘Alla marcia’ has a rare and arresting sensuality about it.

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This is dark, Dostoevskian Rachmaninoff all the way through, however. Lugansky is at his best in the windswept landscapes of the C minor Prelude Op. 23/7, the E minor fourth Moment musical, and the final Maestoso, which he plays as a towering apotheosis. I miss one thing: the tenderer, more smiling intimacy evoked by, for instance, Sviatoslav Richter in the gentler pieces, the berceuse-like D major (Op. 23/4) or the D flat major fifth Moment musical. Lugansky makes these poetic statements tragic rather than loving. But there is no doubt that he is a major artist – though what will happen to his recording career after Warner’s reorganisation? Jessica Duchen