Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Corelli & Chopin Variations

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Sergei Rachmaninoff's reputation rests equally on his gift for Romantic melody and the thrilling virtuosity of his piano works, composed as showpieces for his own formidable technique. His Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini has both of these qualities in abundance -- its 18th Variation may be the most indelible of all his yearning tunes -- but it also reminds us of the sheer brilliance of the composer's musical imagination, with its dazzling array of transformations on Paganini's theme. The Rhapsody requires a soloist who can be playful, soulful, and devilish by turns, and Nikolai Lugansky pulls it off with aplomb, even if other pianists have given this music more visceral...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Sergei Rachmaninoff's reputation rests equally on his gift for Romantic melody and the thrilling virtuosity of his piano works, composed as showpieces for his own formidable technique. His Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini has both of these qualities in abundance -- its 18th Variation may be the most indelible of all his yearning tunes -- but it also reminds us of the sheer brilliance of the composer's musical imagination, with its dazzling array of transformations on Paganini's theme. The Rhapsody requires a soloist who can be playful, soulful, and devilish by turns, and Nikolai Lugansky pulls it off with aplomb, even if other pianists have given this music more visceral edge-of-your-seat excitement. But beyond the popular Rhapsody, this disc offers a real treat with Rachmaninoff's two sets of variations for solo piano, which fill out the recital -- such a satisfying program that it's surprising no one has thought of it before. Lugansky is a probing guide in the moody Corelli Variations of 1931, which are more introverted but no less inventive than the roughly contemporary Paganini Rhapsody. He also revels in the freedom of going solo at the keyboard, unconstrained by orchestral accompaniment: This is surely the disc's most personal and expressive performance. Offering a glimpse of Rachmaninoff in his youth, near the turn of the century, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin comprise a scintillating if slightly long-winded series of miniatures. Lugansky gives them the same dreamy Romantic quality that distinguished his recordings of Chopin's own Préludes and Études -- music that, like Rachmaninoff's, reveals this pianist as one of today's most compelling young virtuosos.
All Music Guide - James Leonard
For a Russian super virtuoso, Nikolai Lugansky seems to be a shy guy. That Lugansky is a Russian super virtuoso is a sure thing. His previous recordings have all stuck to the Russian super virtuoso repertoire of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev with some Chopin thrown in. And Lugansky's previous recordings have all been at their best when the repertoire is at its most super virtuosic. When the prestississimo double octaves are flashing and the fortississimo ten-finger chords are smashing, Nikolai Lugansky seems to be the super virtuosos heir to Horowitz. But when it comes to emotion, you can count Lugansky out. In this disc of super virtuoso variations by the super emotional Rachmaninov, Lugansky rips through the hundreds of thousands of notes with aplomb and panache, but when he gets to the mushy stuff, Lugansky stiffens up. In the crash and rattle of the outer variations of the Paganini "Rhapsody," Lugansky is brilliant. But in the gushy "Variation No. 18" -- one of the great makeout pieces of music of all time -- Lugansky turns prudish and pulls back from the climax. Because the Corelli "Variations" are made of sterner stuff, Lugansky's shyness is no crime. But because the Chopin "Variations" are as lubricious as they are lugubrious, Lugansky seems less like the heir to the super emotional Horowitz than to a prom queen in a mosh pit. Warner's sound is clean, but not clean enough, and warm, but perhaps too warm.
New York Times - Anthony Tommasini
A scintillating account of the popular "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini".... Despite taking daringly swift tempos in the faster variations, [Lugansky] plays with consistent clarity and telling detail. In the more ruminative variations - like the grim one with the tolling "Dies irae" motif and the famous 17th variation, the one with the grandly lyrical theme - Mr. Lugansky's spacious playing is straightforwardly expressive: a refreshing change from pianists who can't help milking this music for every drop of sentiment.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Peter Dobrin
Lugansky...has a lot to offer. In the Paganini variations, he has a strong personality, sometimes strident. But there's also a spark, a brightness, that makes him quite engaging.

A scintillating account of the popular "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini".... Despite taking daringly swift tempos in the faster variations, [Lugansky] plays with consistent clarity and telling detail. In the more ruminative variations - like the grim one with the tolling "Dies irae" motif and the famous 17th variation, the one with the grandly lyrical theme - Mr. Lugansky's spacious playing is straightforwardly expressive: a refreshing change from pianists who can't help milking this music for every drop of sentiment.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/12/2004
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • UPC: 825646061327
  • Catalog Number: 60613
  • Sales rank: 110,984

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–12 Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Introduction and 24 Variations), in A minor for piano & orchestra, Op. 43 - Sergey Rachmaninov & City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (23:30)
  2. 13–22 Variations on a Theme of Corelli, for piano, Op. 42 - Sergey Rachmaninov & Nikolai Lugansky (19:31)
  3. 23–34 Variations on a Theme of Chopin, for piano, Op. 22 - Sergey Rachmaninov & Nikolai Lugansky (30:17)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Nikolai Lugansky Primary Artist
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