On February 4, 2019, Nikolai Lugansky played a recital at Miami’s Temple Beth Am for The Friends of Chamber Music of Miami in a program consisting of works by Debussy, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff.
The first half of the program, containing Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Images Book II and L’Isle Joyeuse, was totally compelling. Internationally renowned opera stage director Bliss Hebert (a trained pianist who had worked for six years with Stravinsky), commented that Lugansky’s Debussy was an “absolutely stunning revelation, and that he “never heard Debussy better performed in a live recital — it was pure music performed with total control.”
After Intermission, Lugansky turned to Scriabin’s Sonata No. 3 and seven Rachmaninoff Preludes from Opus 32. Here Lugansky played with an extraordinary dynamic range. In the audience was Yoel Levi, who was in Miami to conduct the Israel Philharmonic on its American tour. Levi remarked that throughout the recital Lugansky’s playing had demonstrated “truly unbelievable technique and color to make his musicianship a wonderful experience.”
For this listener the Rachmaninoff Preludes brought to my mind the unforgettable performance of the Rachmaninoff Preludes by Sviatoslav Richter at Carnegie Hall in October 1960 when he was making his American Debut recitals. Most memorable and touching was the Prelude in B minor, Opus 32, No. 10, Rachmaninoff’s favorite, which was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s painting Die Heimkehr (“The Homecoming” or “The Return”) and about which Rachmaninoff said: “It is the Return!”
The large appreciative audience’s prolonged standing ovation was rewarded by a Rachmaninoff transcription and another Debussy encore.