BBC Music Magazine - - Instrumental Reviews -

Suite berga­masque; L’isle joyeuse; Arabesques; La plus que lente; Es­tam­pes; Im­ages pour pi­ano – Book 2; Hom­mage à Haydn

Niko­lai Lu­gan­sky (pi­ano) Har­mo­nia Mundi HMM 902309 54:10 mins

The lat­est en­tic­ing in­stal­ment of Har­mo­nia Mundi’s splen­did De­bussy cen­te­nary se­ries fea­tures Rus­sian pi­anist Niko­lai Lu­gan­sky. His recital is built around the Suite berga­masque and the se­cond book of Im­ages, sup­ple­mented by the two Arabesques and a sprin­kling of shorter pieces.

There is plenty of daz­zle from the out­set, L’isle joyeuse fizzing with such en­ergy that it threat­ens to run away from Lu­gan­sky only to be brought to heel. Such heart-on­sleeve vir­tu­os­ity is to the fore again in a breath­less ‘Jardins sous la pluie’, which ap­pears not with its part­ner pieces from the Es­tam­pes, but as a brac­ing shower af­ter the wry slow waltz of La plus que lente.

Lu­gan­sky gen­er­ally takes a brisk ap­proach, keep­ing the first Arabesque flow­ing freely while, ‘Clair de lune’ has poise with no hint of self-in­dul­gence. None­the­less, some of the flour­ishes have a glassy qual­ity and, in the se­cond Arabesque, the bright tone that en­ables such sparkling pi­anism else­where, pe­ri­od­i­cally be­comes brit­tle. Del­i­cacy and deft­ness of touch emerge in ‘Et la lune de­scend sur le tem­ple qui fut’, the se­cond of the Im­ages and, as with its pre­de­ces­sor, ‘Cloches a travers les feuilles’ there are some strik­ing colours if not the breath­tak­ing magic of the best per­for­mances. Sim­i­larly, while the Hom­mage à Haydn has spirit, it could tease rather more.

The recorded sound is up to Har­mo­nia Mundi’s usual high stan­dards, and there is plenty in these per­for­mances to ad­mire, but charm and play­ful­ness are less abun­dant. Christo­pher Din­gle



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