Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Op 37b; Sonata No 2 in G minor, Op 37 (Grand Sonata)

Reviewed on Tue 11 Jul, 2017

The real reason for investing in this CD is surely Lugansky's sensitive account of the twelve evocative movements that make up The Seasons or The Months, music that alternates deep-rooted melancholy with palpable high spirits.

My youthful entry point into Tchaikovsky’s ‘Grand Sonata’ was Sviatoslav Richter’s mono Melodiya recording, which to be truthful is, for all its in-your-face brilliance, something of an onslaught. And while Richter is one of Nikolai Lugansky’s most valued role models, Lugansky’s own performance of the opening Moderato e risoluto is flexible enough to counter potential critical accusations (against the music) of rhetorically motivated repetition. He also conjures a sense of numbed desolation at the start of the Andante second movement, copes well with the rhythmically complex scherzo, and is extremely deft in the finale. But the real reason for investing in this CD is surely his sensitive account of the twelve evocative movements that make up The Seasons or The Months, music that alternates deep-rooted melancholy with palpable high spirits. Lugansky’s interpretative style has a clean-fingered, classical purity about it, quite unlike Mikhail Pletnev (another pianist he admires), who favours a more personal slant on, say, the eleventh movement, November, a troika. By contrast January, March, May and October really sing under Lugansky’s hands. Good, clear sound.
–Rob Cowan