Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: Lugansky - Brahms, Wagner, Rachmaninov - DVD

Very much like his 2008 Verbier recital, Lugansky's 2002 performance in La Roque d'Antheron is a quite nice DVD to watch one or twice, but after that it is more likely not to bear another watching for years.

To begin with the more obvious negatives, the program is appallingly short (less than an hour, encores and all) and the visual side is pretty questionable. Now, when a DVD is offered at full price, the least that companies could do is to fill it nicely: 58 minutes or so sounds like a lame joke. Very much like the garish presentation of the DVD box, the concert itself is filmed in a dark place where the lightning is more often used to show the semi-asleep audience rather than Lugansky himself. Apart from that, the direction is rather ordinary, quite unlike some other DVDs in the series (with the cheesy name ''Les Pianos de la Nuit) such as Berezovsky's beautifully shot mutilation of Liszt's Transcendental Studies. Seldom is some imagination on the director's side shown; quite often the camera is too much focused on Lugansky's face and his mannerism at the keyboard.

However, it is the music and the performance that I rate here and it is this that grants four stars to this DVD but prevents it from getting five. Brahms' six ''klaviestücke'' Op. 116 are beautifully done as befits the generally tranquil and lyrical nature of the music. The only other piece in the program, if this is the word, is Lugansky's own transcription of excerpts from Wagner's Götterdämmerung. These are, naturally, the most famous moments: the duet between Siegfried and Brünnhilde, Siegfried's Rhine journey and funeral march, and the fire consuming Valhalla in the very end. Well, two main complaints about Lugansky's contribution: his transcription is a bit too straightforward and attempts no full exploration of the sonority of the instrument; and in some of the more dramatic moments he resorts to mere banging and/or rushing which all but ruins the music. In contrast, the lyrical passages are wonderfully played.

But the best on the DVD, as in the Verbier case, are the encores. These are all Rachmaninoff pieces – Op. 23 Nos. 5 and 7, Musical Moment Op. 16 No. 4 – and here Lugansky is in his element. His G minor prelude is as dazzling as ever, and his demonic left hand in the Musical Moment has to be heard – and seen – to be believed.

There are no bonuses on the DVD save few dismayingly short excerpts from other DVDs in the same series. Among these one can hear, nay see, how a fine musician like Zoltan Kocsis wastes his time with a noise-parading-as-music by Gyorgy Kurtag. Well worth having at half price.

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