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LSO/Noseda/Lugansky – review

09.30.13
Nikolai Lugansky
The Guardian

By Erica Jeal

Barbican, London
Nikolai Lugansky was sensational in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto alongside a searing Shostakovich Sixth Symphony

Why did the LSO wait so long to book Nikolai Lugansky? The pianist's debut with the orchestra, playing Prokofiev's Concerto No 3, was sensational, even for an artist who has set the bar so high in Russian repertoire. In a work that resembles a virtuoso obstacle course, he was technically dazzling, every note clear and even. And there was constant depth underpinning it all; no passage was so driven that Lugansky could not find time for a tiny but meaningful nuance whenever Prokofiev's music arched an eyebrow or, more rarely, stifled a sob. The players of the LSO gave characterful support, energised not only by their soloist but by the dynamism of Gianandrea Noseda's conducting.

Earlier, Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes had found Noseda uncharacteristically lacking in poise. Arms wide and tense, back rigid, he seemed to be battling unseen forces even during the notionally calm Dawn interlude, and his measured, careful approach made heavy weather of the music, even if the orchestra was thrillingly powerful in the Storm interlude and the climax to Moonlight.

After the interval, the same composer's Sinfonia da Requiem found Noseda on surer ground. The loping tread of the elegiac first movement was mesmeric, and the whizzes and bangs at the climax of the second were passed snappily around the orchestra. As for the consolatory finale, it was persuasively shaped into a smooth arch.

Noseda had saved the orchestra's greatest intensity of tone for Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony. The slow opening melody, on reedy woodwinds and low strings, had a dark, buzzing focus that Noseda was able to strikingly summon again in some of the most frenzied passages later on. But this didn't weigh down the Symphony's overriding buoyancy, however sincere Shostakovich meant that to be.