Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: Lugansky at La Roque d'Anthéron - 2002, DVD




La Roque d'Anthéron:

Les Pianos de la Nuit 


Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118
[1] Intermezzo in A minor [2’14]
[2] Intermezzo in A major [5’07]
[3] Ballade in G minor [3’07]
[4] Intermezzo in F minor [2’28]
[5] Romance in F major [3’44]
[6] Intermezzo in E flat minor [5’35]

Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
Götterdämmerung (arr. Nikolai Lugansky)
[7] Duo Siegfried/Brünnhilde (Prologue) [6’19]
[8] Siegfried’s Rhine Journey [4’23]
[9] Funeral March [7’02]
[10] Conflagration of Walhalla [6’34]

Sergej Rachmaninov (1873–1943) 
[11] Prelude in C minor, Op. 23 No. 7
[12] Prelude in G minor, Op. 23 No. 5
[13] Moment musical in E minor, Op. 16 No. 4

Nikolai Lugansky, piano

Recorded live: August 6, 2002, La Roque d'Anthéron.

Directed by Dominique Pernoo.

Ideale Audience International, 2003. 58’10. Colour. Picture format 16:9. LPCM Stereo 2.0. PAL. Liner notes by Réne Martin, Paul Onoratini, Pierre-Olivier Bardet and Thierry Beauvert.

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Much like his 2008 Verbier recital, Lugansky’s 2002 performance at La Roque d'Anthéron is quite a nice DVD to watch once or twice, but after that it is more likely not to bear another watching for years.

To begin with the obvious negatives, the program is too 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 up nicely: 58 minutes do sound like a lame joke. Very much unlike the garish presentation of the front cover, the concert itself is filmed in almost complete darkness. Lighting is used but occasionally to show the half-asleep audience or 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 there some imagination on the director’s side; quite often the camera is too much focused on Lugansky’s face and his mannered swaying at the keyboard. The picture and sound quality are excellent.

The music and the performance earn this DVD four stars. Brahms’ late “Klavierstücke” Op. 116 are beautifully done as befits the generally tranquil and lyrical nature of the music. In the few more robust moments, such as the Ballade and the middle section of No. 6, Lugansky acquits himself with distinction. The only other piece on the program is the pianist’s own transcription of excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. These are, naturally, the most famous moments: the ecstatic duet between Siegfried and Brünnhilde from the Prologue, Siegfried’s jaunty Rhine Journey that follows and his mighty Funeral March, and the fire consuming Valhalla in the very end. Well, two main complaints about Lugansky’s contribution: his transcription (save cuts) is a bit too straightforward and attempts no full exploration of the instrument’s sonority; and in some of the more dramatic moments (particularly in the Prologue) he is more loud and fast than dramatic. In contrast, the lyrical sections are beautifully played. 

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

There are no bonuses save a few 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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