Hot on the heels of Lang Lang's new Prokofiev 3 comes this release by the equally estimable, if slightly less starry, Nikolai Lugansky. The two pianists could hardly be more different in style, with Lugansky offering a wonderfully solid brand of pianism, the notes sounding more "filled to capacity", like bubbles with a liquid centre, as opposed to the air-filled ones of Lang Lang that rise iridescent into the air and even change shape as they go. Much as I like the surface excitement and expressiveness of Lang Lang, and think his version of this piece is possibly the most exciting ever recorded, I find myself equally in thrall to Lugansky's restraint. There is a masculine power in his command of the keyboard that hides a tender heart, pushing ahead at a fractionally faster tempo in all three movements, and he is also an ideal player in a different way. What the other version does have is an expanded aural profile provided by the engineers, and Rattle's contribution with possibly the greatest orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic. I've not been particularly keen on Kent Nagano's conducting live, but here he does a good job, both in the Prokofiev and the Grieg. The orchestra - also from Berlin - does sound more boxed in as recorded in the modern-looking Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin-Dahlem, but this does not preclude some unexpected details coming across in the middle string parts in the Grieg, for instance, and Lugansky is, as I say, a pianist of substance, thoughtful and of sincere emotion. The last movement of the Grieg is splendidly rollicking and has moments of real brilliance, with the most electrifying definition and cushioned power in the notes. He must have the heart of a giant - very likely the choice between this and the Lang Lang will come down to the coupling, with the Grieg offering a more popular complement, placed first in the sequence, where Lang Lang sets the Prokofiev against the more modern Bartok.
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