Grieg • Prokofiev: Piano Concertos

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Grieg; Prokofiev
LABELS: Ambrosie
ALBUM TITLE: Grieg • Prokofiev: Piano Concertos
WORKS: Grieg: Piano Concerto; Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
PERFORMER: Nikolai Lugansky (piano); Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: AM 210

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Following Lang Lang’s high-voltage performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto on Sony (reviewed December 2013) comes another formidable recording of the work accompanied by a Berlin-based orchestra. Nikolai Lugansky is no less highly charged than Lang Lang in the athletic scalic passages that open and close the first movement Allegro, delivering the percussive clangour of the Finale’s concluding bars with incredible bravado. But the Russian pianist brings a greater variety of character to the rest of the work, Romantically intense in the almost Rachmaninov-like middle section of the Finale; dreamy and eerily reflective in the Notturno fourth variation of the central movement; and sharply ironic in some of the grotesque melodies of the opening Allegro. Kent Nagano and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester provide a strongly focused accompaniment and the recorded balance is near ideal. This takes its place alongside the finest performances from Martha Argerich and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

The Grieg is also impressive. Lugansky gives a consummate account, one particular highlight being his dazzling finger dexterity near the opening of the first movement cadenza. Before this I wondered whether soloist and conductor were being too introvert, with a basic tempo that is rather deliberate for Grieg’s marking of Allegro molto moderato. But it’s offset by a Finale that is sparkling and vivacious, bringing the Concerto to an exhilarating close.

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Erik Levi