Nikita Lukinov plays breathtaking charity recital for Ukraine in Berlin.

An appreciation by Moritz von Bredow

On December 8th 2022 the 24-year-old Russian pianist Nikita Lukinov, who comes from Voronezh in Russia, gave an acclaimed benefit recital for a Ukrainian aid organization at the Representation of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg in Berlin. The mayors of Kiyv and Hamburg had signed a humanitarian pact to support the Ukrainian population, for which Nikita Lukinov now committed himself with this performance. He had already given benefit concerts for Ukraine in the UK in the past.

Nikita Lukinov’s recital was enabled through the cooperation between the Keyboard Charitable Trust, London and the Representation of the City of Hamburg, as well as the generous support of Steinway & Sons, Berlin, who had once again supplied an amazing Steinway B.

The artist, who appears modest and listens attentively in conversation, has every artistic means at his disposal to make him a truly great pianist. He showed this impressively on this evening.

Trained by Bashkirov students Svetlana Semenkova in Voronezh and Tatiana Sarkissova at the Purcell School in London, Lukinov is currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) with Lithuanian pianist Petras Geniušas in the master’s program. He has also been teaching at his conservatoire since October 2022.

For tonight’s performance he had chosen two colossal works of the romantic piano literature.

The demonic opening of Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor made each of the 120 listeners in the sold-out hall sit up and hold their breath. Lukinov fully understands the complex character of this demanding sonata, which is nevertheless often heard in concert halls, and at no point he allowed himself to be carried away by tasteless exaggerations or “kitschy” embellishments. At all times he was able to master the musical complexity, combined with the immense technical challenges, in an absolutely controlled manner. His technical mastery as well as his always idiomatic musical expression are impressive. He succeeded not only in great orchestral colours and fantastic climaxes, but also in lyrical cantilenas and dreamy, subtle rubato – just as Liszt had notated. The listeners were spellbound. 

I found the outstanding use of the two pedals particularly impressive: the right pedal was never used to excess, on the contrary: many of those phrases which with other pianists blur or disappear in a great, hurricane-force surge of notes were heard clearly, chiselled and transparent. The left pedal was used with restraint, at most for displaying colours, but never to breathe away a powerless, dull pianissimo.

Great applause – great, intelligent piano playing.

Nikita Lukinov then played the Symphonic Etudes, Opus 13 by Robert Schumann, to whom, incidentally, Franz Liszt had dedicated his previously played Sonata in B minor.

In addition to the etudes, Nikita Lukinov had also selected some of the variations composed later by Robert Schumann and woven them into the overall work with great sensitivity. 

Here, too, he mastered both the musical demands and the technical challenge. Both merged into a unity.

The two characters repeatedly quoted by Robert Schumann, Florestan (the wild rebel) and Eusebius (the lyrical dreamer), which he had borrowed from a novel by the Romantic poet Jean Paul, were wonderfully brought out by Lukinov in their musical contrasts, thus perfectly capturing the Symphonic Etudes. At the end, there was once again unending applause. Two encores by Tchaikovsky and Scriabin rounded off this extremely impressive and moving piano recital.

Although Nikita Lukinov had chosen two colossal works of the romantic piano literature, there was at no time any tonal or acoustic exaggeration, which one unfortunately hears all too often in concert halls. Young pianists are all too likely to be seduced by showmanship and the above mentioned “kitschy” exaggeration, but none of this was to be heard in Lukinov’s performance. 

And so I am eager to hear how this promising pianist, equipped with all the means for a grandiose career, will develop. 

I think of Glenn Gould or Kit Armstrong with Byrd and Gibbons, the interpretations of Bach by Samuel Feinberg and Svatjoslav Richter, of Scarlatti with Vladimir Horovitz and Beethoven with Emil Gilels, of Cage with Grete Sultan. Nikita Lukinov seems absolutely equal to all these pianists with his performance offered here. 

And so this would be my only wish: that one may hear Nikita Lukinov also with compositions from other epochs, from the Renaissance to the Modern. This could be, as already shown here with works from the Romantic period, a musical revelation, and he could show the whole range of his immense pianistic skills in highly interesting, musically diverse programmes.

John Leech listening to Nikita talk as well as play
Nikita with Noretta Conci overwhelmed by his beautiful playing
Soirée musicale for the founders of the Keyboard Trust – a Christmas treat indeed


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