Nikita Lukinov at St Mary’s No pumpkins just the magic of music making at its finest

Tuesday May 4th 4.00 pm 

Prokofiev of such beauty never since Rubinstein’s magical Visions Fugitives have I ever put those two words together until listening to this young man’s Cinderella suite today.
Six pieces one more beautiful and characterful than the other and far from ending with a bang there was the same magic that had ended Rachmaninov’s Corelli variations minutes before.Or the same beautiful pastoral ending to Beethoven’s most Schubertian outpouring of his sonata op 90.All from a young man as he himself declared:’ I have always studied with Russian teachers at the Purcell School with Alexeev’s wife Tatyana Sarkissova and now in Glasgow with Petras Geniusas.’
.Sing a song of sixpence indeed as he has learnt how to extract the magic from this box of strings and hammers and shape them with his own sensibility into sumptuous music.A secret that is kept locked away in a box and the key evidently only given to a special few of which Nikita is most definitely the only one I have heard for a long long time.

A memorable recital – one of the best in recent weeks. Very impressive. Here is the HD version – enjoy

Beethoven: Sonata in E minor Op 90 con vivacità ma sempre con sentimento ed espressione -Non tanto mosso e molto cantabile

There was an architectural shape and sense of direction from the very first notes of Beethoven’s most mellifluous outpouring with his Sonata op 90.Opening the door to Beethoven’s final thoughts as his survey of 32 sonatas comes to a close.One of the simplest of Sonatas in just two movements to be followed by one of the most complex:op 101 or the longest :op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’ before entering the realms of glory with the final trilogy where the song of life has taken over from his conflict and strife.There was immediately a great sense of character but with an almost orchestral fullness to the sound even with the continual contrasts of very strong and rhythmic dissolving to the absolute essential outline.Of course Beethoven’s precise indications were scrupulously incorporated into a carefully orchestrated architectural line.Even in the development section there were taught rhythms and beautifully shaped lines.The melodic nature of the semi quavers was never allowed to interrupt this continual rhythmic undercurrent as it gradually disintegrates taking us back to the recapitulation so naturally.The coda was played with such masculine delicacy as it led into one of Beethoven’s most simple melodies.This almost Schubertian outpouring was played with a rhythmic buoyancy that together with Nikita’s superb sense of balance allowed one episode to grow so naturally out of another as the melody returns in a continual flow of mellifluous sounds.There was a magical duet between left and right hand before the sublime pastoral conclusion … water in a brook with a feeling that this was only a momentary interruption in a continual natural flow.

Rachmaninov:Variations on a theme of Corelli Op 42 Andante Theme -20 variations – Andante Coda

Variations on a Theme of Corelli op 42 by Rachmaninov was written in 1931 at his holiday home in Switzerland and was his last work for piano solo.The theme known as La Folia was used by Corelli in his Sonata op 5 n.12 but it was a theme popularly used as the basis for variations in baroque music.Liszt used it too in his Spanish Rhapsody .Rachmaninov dedicated the work to his friend and duo partner Fritz Kreisler,one of the greatest violinists of all time and with whom he famously asked where he was when he lost his way in the score during a recital.’In Carnegie Hall’,came the dour reply from Rachmaninov.My old teacher ,Vlado Perlemuter ,used to tell me that Rachmaninov appeared in public looking as though he had just swallowed a knife ,but the romantic sounds he could conjure from the piano with his two huge hands was quite unique.

Rachmaninov wrote to composer friend Nikolai Medtner, on 21 December 1931:’I’ve played the Variations about fifteen times, but of these fifteen performances only one was good. The others were sloppy. I can’t play my own compositions! And it’s so boring! Not once have I played these all in continuity. I was guided by the coughing of the audience. Whenever the coughing would increase, I would skip the next variation. Whenever there was no coughing, I would play them in proper order. In one concert, I don’t remember where – some small town – the coughing was so violent that I played only ten variations (out of 20). My best record was set in New York, where I played 18 variations. However, I hope that you will play all of them, and won’t “cough”.’Rachmaninov recorded many of his own works, but this piece wasn’t one of them.

I heard them for the first time in Siena when I remember Agosti interrupting his masterclass to be able to watch on television the first man to set foot on the moon.I remember him being astonished by this achievement as a student friend- we had skived off from the RAM together -played him these variations.Agosti not known for his generosity was overcome by the performance and that occasion of over 50 years ago has remained with me every time I hear them.Today there was an absolute purity of sound in the theme which was played with such disarming simplicity contrasting with the sumptuous sounds of the first variation with its beautiful haunting syncopations and counterpoints.There was a stillness to the second where the inner legato melodic line was commented on with great technical control by the staccato outer line leading to the capricious interruption of the Tempo di Menuetto.Hauntingly delicate comments on the solemn melodic line played by his delicate orchestra before the rhythmic energy of the fifth and sixth.The bass pedal note marked ‘laissez vibrer’ was exactly that and so rarely observed that I had to look carefully at my score.But here in Nikita we have a real interpreter who delves deeply into the scores of all that he plays.He plays with great fantasy and colour but always having scrupulously understood the composers intentions.An Adagio misterioso was played with all the impish dry humour typical of Rachmaninov and followed by a continual flow of harmonious sounds before the almost clockwork precision and clarity of the tenth variation.The ending just thrown off with ease before plunging into the hammered rhythms of the next variation but never allowing the sound to harden only enrichen it’s character.Molto marcato Rachmaninov writes for this sparse almost Prokofiev like variation before the driving rhythms leading up to the central cadenza.Even here the accents in the left hand were carefully pointed and gave such shape to what so often sounds like an empty gallop.A cadenza of wondrous colours and true magic that dissolves amidst cascading sounds leading us to the theme in the warmth of the major key .There was some glorious legato playing of ravishing beauty with Rachmaninov’s ever present shadow of nostalgia before the almost re-tuning of the sixteenth variation and the theme that comes riding in gently on horseback in the seventeenth.There was much power in the eighteenth and a gust of wind in the nineteenth as we came to the last variation of double octaves played with transcendental skill allowing even here a great sense of colour and shape.The long vibrating note of D left a cloud of sound on which floats one of Rachmaninov’s most haunting melodies before the utmost simplicity of the transformed theme …….’folia’indeed as the two final chords were barely whispered and certainly not struck at the end of this extraordinary performance

Prokofiev: 6 pieces from Cinderella Op 102

  1. Waltz: Cinderella and the Prince (Вальс: Золушка и принц)
  2. Cinderella’s Variation (Вариация Золушка)
  3. Quarrel (Ссора)
  4. Waltz: Cinderella Goes to the Ball (Вальс: отъезд Золушки на бал)
  5. Pas de Chale (Па-де-шаль)
  6. Amoroso

This collection of six transcriptions was the last of the three sets for piano that Prokofiev extracted from Cinderella, the other two being ten pieces (Op. 97) and three pieces (Op. 95). He wrote the ballet from 1940-44, during which time he also worked on these transcriptions, as well as other music, including parts of his opera War and Peace, the whole of his orchestral suite, The Year 1941, and the String Quartet No. 2. Along with his Ten Pieces from Romeo & Juliet, Op. 75, this collection represents the composer’s best piano transcriptions. Prokofiev arranged them in 1944 and published them the same year.

This is only the second time I have heard this suite complete although I think Richter played some of them as encores in the many memorable recitals he used to give in London in the 60’s and 70’s.I heard the complete set in Italy with a Russian protégée of Eliso Virsaladze. A fine performance but one that I could take or leave.So I was not over enthusiastic about hearing it again today.But as Joan Chissell famously said in a review of a concert by Rubinstein,the Prince of pianists : ‘Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems’.I have no wish to infer that Prokofiev’s Cinderella are baubles but I do mean in the wider sense that the music today was made to talk and tell a story.In Nikita’s hands it was a wondrous story indeed full of colour,imagination and a sense of line.Someone who has the ‘gift of the gab’ and that can keep you enthralled with the story he has to tell.Tomorrow I will add the score to my library but for now just recommend that you listen to this exemplary performance of a Prokofiev that can be made to SING! In the meantime I just copy these notes that may be of interest:

This collection of six pieces from Cinderella is without doubt the most substantial of the three sets. It contains not only some of the ballet’s most memorable themes but also its darker and more profound music. Many have viewed the work as a light piece, almost on the direct and generally simple level of Peter and the Wolf. Its music, however, goes far deeper in its often-thorny expressive language and complex conflicts than any of his children’s works. For example, the third piece, The Quarrel, taken from Nos. 2, Pas-du-châle) and 4, The Father, in the ballet, contrasts playful mischief at the outset with a dissonant buildup in the middle section that could well depict a bloody sword fight, rather than the nagging Cinderella’s father suffers from his second wife and her daughters. The opening piece in the set, Waltz (Cinderella and the Prince), portraying the Grand Waltz (No. 30 in the ballet), is sinister and suggests strife and anything but romance between Cinderella and the Prince. The second piece, Cinderella’s Variation, is one of the lighter items, yet even it portends anxiety in its closing moments. Taken from Cinderella’s Dance (No. 32), it is a fairly literal transcription of the music, as is generally the case here. Prokofiev rarely enlarged upon or substantially altered music he transcribed, though he often shifted sections around and rearranged their order. The fourth piece is the famous Waltz, No. 37 in the ballet, that occurs just before Midnight. It is sinister and ominous, quite effective on the piano too, but Prokofiev had to tack on an ending to it since this section in the ballet leads right into Midnight. The next piece, Pas-du-châle, is taken from music in the first act dance of the same name (No. 2) and from Duet of the Sisters with the Oranges. The mood is humorous at the outset, then turns mocking. It fits well on the piano, the color and sarcasm conveyed splendidly, with the music not landing softly on its dissonances. The final piece here is Amoroso, comprised of Cinderella’s theme, which occurs in No. 1, Introduction (and elsewhere in the ballet), a portion from No. 3 Cinderella, and from the closing number, Amoroso. This is probably the best of the six pieces, not only because it combines music from throughout the ballet, but because it captures Cinderella’s sadness and adversity at the outset, her inner beauty and love for the Prince in the latter half and her happily-ever-after triumph at the close. It is a musical depiction of her character’s growth. Prokofiev here does make a few minor changes in accommodating the music from the ballet’s Amoroso close, but the differences sound greater than they actually are, partly because of the piano’s non-sustaining sonority.

Nikita Lukinov was born in Russia in 1998. In 2005 Nikita started studying at Voronezh Central Music School with Svetlana Semenkova, an alumna of Dmitry Bashkirov. Nikita’s first success was a Grand-Prix at the 2010 International Shostakovich Piano Competition for Youth (Moscow). Nikita’s debut with a symphonic orchestra was at the age of 11. Other achievements include 1st place in the Inter-Russian piano competition for young pianists, Finalist of an International television competition for young musicians “Nutcracker”, 1st place in the Inter-Russian Concerto competition, where he performed a Chopin piano Concerto No1 op.11 with on orchestra at the age of 14. Nikita’s most recent awards include 1st place in the Inter-Russian Competition “Music Talents of Russia” (Russia, 2020), 2nd place at the Franz Liszt Center International Piano Competition (Spain, 2021).
After studying in Russia, Nikita won a full scholarship to continue his studies in London at Purcell School for Young Musicians, the oldest and one of the most prestigious specialist music school in the UK. His musicianship was cultivated by Professor Tatiana Sarkissova, a Dmitry Bashkirov’s alumna. While studying at the Purcell School Nikita had his Kings Place and Wigmore Hall debuts, he also won The Purcell School Concerto Competition. He performed Prokofiev Concerto 1 op.10 and Mozart Concerto 15 K.450 with the Purcell School Orchestra at the age of 15. Since September 2017, Nikita continues his education at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on a full scholarship with Professor Petras Geniušas. Nikita has been fortunate to gain numerous concert opportunities at prestigious venues across the UK and outside, such as St. Martin in the Fields, Wigmore Hall (London), Kings Place (London), Fazioli Hall (Italy), Vaduz Rathaussaal (Liechtenstein), The Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory, St. Petersburg Music House. He is the recipient of a personal scholarship from Voronezh’s State Government “For Outstanding Cultural Achievements”, “Russian Children’s Foundation” and an international charity foundation “New Names”, personal scholarship from the National Artist of Russia V. Ovchinnikov, scholarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein, where he participated in the Intensive Music Weeks and activities offered by the Academy in 2020. In 2020 Nikita was appointed as “Emissary of the Muses of San Antonio, Texas”. Nikita is one of the musicians at the Talent Unlimited scheme (London). 2021 highlights should include participation at the “Verbier Music Festival”, “Art of the Piano” Festival in the USA and a debut recital at the Steinway Hall in London.

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