RACHMANINOV Complete Preludes (Lugansky)
The name of Nikolai Lugansky has become inextricably associated with the music of Rachmaninov and it’s not difficult to understand why. He has the requisite technique in spades, he has the dynamic range and, most importantly, he is emotionally completely attuned to this music. Such absorption means that though he is revisiting the Opp 3 and 23 from 2000, you won’t find radical rethinking going on here. Rather it’s about honing, about refining and redefining. The yearning of Op 23 No 6, for instance, is more nuanced than previously, while the voicings of the inner section of Op 23 No 5 are even more subtly conveyed, contrasting with a drive of the outer sections that never turns edgy. The Presto of Op 23 No 9 is a little slower than previously – less viscerally exciting – but in its place we have a clarity of detail and elegant turns of phrase that underline its Chopinesque qualities. Lugansky’s earlier account of the last of Op 23 now seems relatively foursquare compared to his more sinuous new interpretation.
In the opening Prelude of Op 32, he lets rip in the faster writing to unfettered effect, even if Steven Osborne’s way with the filigree is irresistibly delicate. Highlights are many: the bells of No 3 are suitably fulsome, while the G major (No 5) is suitably airborne (though here Lympany in her first recording is in a class of her own). Lugansky’s is a set that balances strength and delicacy – Ashkenazy may find more biting brilliance in Op 32 No 8 but Lugansky is altogether warmer-toned, contrasting with the intensity of resignation of his B minor (No 10). The last of the set has true grandeur – it’s steady compared to Osborne but Lugansky has the goods to back it up. An impressive addition to his discography.