Lugansky lights up St. Petersburg Philharmonic program
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic comes to Washington every three or four years, usually with a big Russian program and a star soloist in tow.
Washington Performing Arts again presented the ensemble Monday night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, as the first stop on the orchestra’s latest American tour. Yuri Temirkanov led authoritative, expertly paced renditions of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, the sort of concert fondly remembered from his tenure at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Nikolai Lugansky was a fiery presence in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, able to rise above this potent orchestra’s fullest sound, mostly unrestrained by Temirkanov. After a tidal crescendo in the piano to open the first movement, Lugansky accompanied the luscious, deep-set string unison melody with furious figuration. Lugansky demurely accompanied the tender clarinet solo in the slow movement, with Temirkanov moving things propulsively. The movement reached a climax with the multiple trill that Lugansky allowed to ring in the air for a long time with the sustaining pedal, after which the honey-smooth violins took up that opening theme again, now with a more sustained, but still not syrupy approach.
The finale, crisp and extremely fast, threatened at times to come apart at the seams, but Lugansky was alternately devilish, volcanic, and astounding in demarcated detail. He then obliged the generous ovations with a delightful encore, a Rachmaninov Prelude (Op.32, No.12, in G sharp minor).
Temirkanov conducted some unforgettable performances of the Shostakovich symphonies over the years in Baltimore. This rendition of the Fifth Symphony was not quite in that league, although it had plenty of bombast. The musicians, at the start of what will be a long tour, were not in the best form, with some roughness in string attacks and ensemble unity. Intonation issues cropped up in exposed passages, especially in the harp-centered sections.
Washington Performing Arts will present four American orchestras for the first SHIFT Festival March 28 to April 1. washingtonperformingarts.org/.