“Nikolaï Lugansky has the all-too-rare ability to make every note sing. His phenomenally assured technique transcends the barriers of difficulty, enabling him to concentrate purely on the music behind the fireworks.” (Classic FM Magazine on Lugansky’s CD of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3)
“Rachmaninov is the composer Lugansky seems born to play.” (The Observer)
This imaginative programme of all three of Rachmaninov’s fiendishly-difficult large-scale variations complements Nikolaï Lugansky’s ongoing survey of Rachmaninov’s piano music, including the piano concertos cycle, for Warner Classics.
The Variations on a Theme of Chopin, composed in 1902-1903, is based on Chopin’s C minor Prelude, Op. 28 No. 20. The Variations on a Theme of Corelli is Rachmaninov’s only work for solo piano after leaving his native Russia and dates from 1931. In fact, the theme is not Corelli’s but rather an anonymous 17th century Portuguese dance song that inspired many composers. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini of 1934, is composed for piano and orchestra, the largest orchestra, in fact, that Rachmaninov ever wrote for. It is a closely integrated set of variations on the 24th of Paganini’s famous Caprices for solo violin. Lugansky is partnered by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo, with whom he recorded Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3, released to great critical acclaim. Concertos 2 & 4, which complete the cycle, will be released in 2005.
Nikolaï Lugansky is the son of two Russian scientists and the piano student of the late great Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva, who referred to him as “the next one” in the grand Russian line of pianists extending back through Neuhaus, Gilels and Richter. Lugansky won a silver medal in the 1988 Leipzig International Bach Competition and second prize in the 1990 Moscow Rachmaninov Competition but it was the top prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1994 that launched his international career with a string of celebrated concert appearances and recordings.
Lugansky’s recordings of Chopin Etudes, Rachmaninov Preludes and Moments musicaux and Chopin Preludes were each awarded the Diapason d’Or. In addition, his Chopin Preludes CD was selected as Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and cited as one of the “Top 10 Classical CDs” of 2002 in The Daily Telegraph. His Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 won the Choc du Monde de la Musique and the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Of Lugansky’s most recent release, Prokofiev’s Sonatas Nos. 4 & 6 and excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, The Observer wrote, “Lugansky continues to delight and amaze, proving his range as much as his formidable technique and musicianship in works close to his big Russian heart” and The Daily Telegraph praised his “thorough absorption in the music and its emotional substance” and his “unswerving structural coherence… full of illuminating touches.”