City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2013: Russian National Orchestra 02 Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 22 August 2013

Nikolai Lugansky, pianist with Russian National Orchestra
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The Usher Hall
Russian National Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Running time: 
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No 3; Scriabin, Symphony No 1.
Mikhail Pletnev (conductor), Nikolai Lugansky (piano), Svetlan Sozdateleva (soprano), Maxim Paster (tenor), Christopher Bell (chorus master).

A scintillating performance of Rachmaninov’s third Piano Concerto by Nikolai Lugansky made a thrilling opening to the final RNO festival concert. Conductor Mikhail Pletnev – also a pianist of repute – had little to do with the soloist though the accompanying orchestra needed more attention.

Lugansky’s third appearance at this year’s Festival was a model of clarity and accuracy. The virtuosity of his playing in a work of great technical difficulty was remarkable, as was his sheer physical effort. For many louder passages he appeared to jump up from the piano stool to add more force to his attack on the keyboard. The dense storm of notes that ensued was fantastic.

After the interval we heard Scriabin’s First Symphony, an unusual composition of six movements rather than the more usual four. It has ingenious orchestration, elegant melodies for languid strings, serene slow sections but a certain lack of coherence.

Pletnev, who founded the RNO in 1990, is not a demonstrative conductor, controlling and guiding with the minimum of gestures. In the finale, where mystical, nostalgic dialogue between the mezzo-soprano and tenor culminates in a passionate, repeated cry “Glory to art, glory evermore”. Pletnev secured precise interplay between soloists, orchestra and chorus.

Though the words were sung in Russian, the Festival Chorus did not stumble. In contrast the two soloists were not an ideal coupling, with the tenor being outclassed by his female counterpart.

Event: Tuesday 20 August at 7.30pm