Philharmonia/Dudamel Nikolai Lugansky

Festive Overture, Op.96
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26
West Side Story – Symphonic Dances

Nikolai Lugansky (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 23 February, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

It is hard to know what favourable comments to make about this concert apart from praising the well executed playing from an excellent orchestra.

Third-rate Shostakovich, second-rate Prokofiev, popular Bernstein and a short Mexican novelty. Conductor and soloist were there to be assessed of course; the young, charismatic, Gustavo Dudamel and the Russian doppleganger for King Edward VIII, Nikolai Lugansky.

Dudamel clearly has a bright future – but only if he is allowed to conduct better music than this. Lugansky literally hammered his way through the Prokofiev in such a manner that the piano obscured even the brass section. Admittedly the confined acoustic of the Queen Elizabeth Hall did not help, but by the end of the work my sympathies lay only with the battered and bruised piano.

Dudamel certainly made the most of the Festive Overture, but the Prokofiev was reduced in stature by Lugansky mercilessly displaying his virtuosity instead of his musicianship. Dudamel did not extract any individuality out of Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and he played a work from Mexico that sounded like an effective test piece suited to a good youth orchestra.

Next time Dudamel appears with the Philharmonia, as he surely will, hopefully he will bring more challenging repertoire with which to judge his much-vaunted skills.

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