Rachmaninoff, Piano Concertos 1-4, City of Birmingham Orchestra, N. Lugansky
(released on March 20, 2007)
The opening selection, the sparkling overture to Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla, seemed intended to announce the orchestra's vitality and strength. The Philadelphians performed the work in a new edition, recently published by Kalmus and edited by David J. Miller, a Petty Officer and trombonist in the U.S. Navy Band (and Fairfax Symphony). Working from a copy of Glinka's manuscript, Miller discovered and corrected several mistakes that had crept into the most often used editions. (Marilyn Cooley spoke to Miller about his work for WETA's Classical Conversations.) With precise and fluid gestures, Dutoit led the players in a clean rendition, digging into the brash opening, giving incisive clarity to the dissected motive fragments in the middle section, and with the cellos giving a glowing happiness to the B theme.
Russian pianist Nikolaï Lugansky then joined the orchestra for Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto (the uncut original version, of course). Although some ensemble sloppiness emerged in the first movement, after the famous opening theme -- Lugansky rushing ahead, the players not keeping pace -- this was Rachmaninoff that this inveterate Rachmaninoff-hater could love: light on the schmaltz (although not lacking in beautiful rubato) and heavy on the athletic power, a performance that insisted with urgency rather than swooned with fainting emotion. The winner of second prizes at the Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Bach Competitions -- that's a combination that says something about the way Lugansky plays Romantic music -- the ever-formal Lugansky sat with his back straight as a rod, not even breaking a sweat, although the most demanding passages did cause some veins to bulge out in his neck. His technical assurance and smooth melodic line even in the first movement's gigantic cadenza and the outrageous repeated-note and scherzo-like passages of the third movement were impressive.
Robert Battey, In performance: The Philadelphia Orchestra (Washington Post, May 28)
Peter Dobrin, Phila. Orchestra continues neighborhood concerts (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 13)
David Patrick Stearns, Gershwin, Sousa play in Shanghai (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9)
Xiyun Yang, U.S. Orchestra Performs in China, in Echoes of 1973 (New York Times, May 7)
December 2004 | November 2005
June 2007 | December 2007 | June 2009
The WPAS season concludes next month with a recital by cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan (June 15, 8 pm), at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue.