City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2013: Russian National Orchestra 01 Review

By John A Hamilton - Posted on 20 August 2013

Nikolai Lugansky, pianist with Russian National Orchestra
Show details
The Usher Hall
Running time: 
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor; Glazunov: The Seasons Op 67
Russian National Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev (conductor), Nikolai Lugansky (piano)

In 1897, three years prior to completing his renowned Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Rachmaninov suffered acute depression following harsh criticism of his first symphony. It appeared he would never have confidence to compose again.

His aunt sent him to Dr. Dahl who treated patients using hypnosis. Within months Rachmaninov was composing again and had completed the second and third movements, premiered in Moscow to critical acclaim, and then composed the first movement in early 1901.

When the premier of the complete concerto took place at a Moscow Philharmonic Society Concert in November of 1901, it surpassed expectations, receiving an overwhelming reception, and was welcomed as a major addition to the repertoire.

From the sonorous chiming bell-like chords on the piano, possible inspired by the tolling of the bells of St Sophia's, Novogorod, that opened the concerto, this chiming figure set the mood for the movement.

Like so much Russian music, Rachmaninov's piano concert was performed tonight depicting a brooding expansiveness reminiscent of the vast open space of Russian landscape; rich melodies continually unfolded like the grey clouds and glimmers of bright, warm sunshine often experienced by the ever changing summer weather here in Scotland.

Again, the second movement began with a short chordal introduction, the piano entered with a series of rippling legato triplets above a haunting melody played by flute and clarinet. This movement was brought to a beautiful, warm close by muted violins and solo piano.

Such a tour de force that is the third movement afforded the audience an experience which combined the celebrated return of a young composer's magnificent work of sheer Russian romanticism, and the captivating performances of soloist, conductor and Russian National Orchestra.

It was obvious Lugansky (piano) had great affinity with this piece, his interpretative performance and superlative technique had a capacity, including organ gallery, Usher Hall audience spellbound from the outset. Following thunderous applause Lugansky concluded the first half of the evening's programme with a delightful piano solo.

Alexander Glazunov's ballet The Seasons, Op 67, was composed for the Russian Imperial Ballet troupe. The work is not a ballet in the customary sense, lacking, as it does any clearly defined scenario. The Seasons takes the form of a series of tableaux: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn – subdivided.

This was a most delightful piece masterfully performed under the authoritative baton of Pletnev's (conductor), whose marvellous sense of musical structure, instinct for the right tempo and ear for orchestral balance and colour ensured the combined talent of members of the Russian Nation Orchestra gave tonight's audience an evening of music not to be missed.

Event: Monday 19th August 2013, 7.30pm