Nikita Lukinov at Bluthner Piano Centre for the Keyboard Trust Liszt restored to greatness.

LISZT Sonata S.178

SCRIABIN Valse Op.38

PROKOFIEV Six pieces from ‘Cinderella’ Op.102:

Waltz: Cinderella and the Prince :Cinderella’s Variation :Quarrel:Waltz: Cinderella Goes to the Ball :Pas de Chale :Amoroso.

Recorded on the 9th June in the first collaboration with Bluthner piano centre in London on a truly magnificent concert Bluthner.It will be streamed live on the 14th July via the Keyboard Trust web site

Nikita with Leslie Howard whose new edition of the Sonata for Henle has been hailed as the authoritative edition

Liszt noted on the sonata’s manuscript that it was completed on February 2, 1853,but he had composed an earlier version by 1849.The Sonata was dedicated to Schumann, in return for Schumann’s dedication of his Fantasie op 17 (published 1839) to Liszt which was his contribution to the monument of Beethoven in Bonn that Liszt had undertaken to organise.A copy of the work arrived at Schumann’s house in May 1854, after he had entered Endenich sanatorium. Schumann’s wife Clara did not perform the Sonata as she found it “merely a blind noise”.The Sonata was published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1854 and first performed on January 27, 1857 in Berlin by Hans von Bulow – Liszt’s son in law .It was attacked by the noted critic Eduard Hanslick who said “anyone who has heard it and finds it beautiful is beyond help”.Brahms reputedly fell asleep when Liszt performed the work in 1853.However, the Sonata drew enthusiasm from Wagner also Liszt’s son in law,Cosima having left von Bulow for Wagner.He heard it in a private performance by Karl Klindworth on April 5, 1855.It took a long time for the Sonata to become commonplace in concert repertoire, because of its technical difficulty and its status as “new” music.

I had heard Nikita a month ago in a memorable recital at that Mecca for great young talent that is St Mary’s Perivale .A Prokofiev that sang with such colour,shape and style.Not even that had prepared me for this extraordinary performance of the Liszt Sonata that he played in his New Artists recital for the Keyboard Trust.I never thought I would ever re live the emotions of hearing Guido Agosti intoning and playing such a masterpiece in his studio in Siena and in Rome.I have heard some memorable performances from above all Curzon with his scrupulous attention to detail ,the sheer grandiose exhilaration of Gilels,the visionary Richter ,the oracle that was Arrau and even Cherkassky whose London performance was praised by Peter Stadlen as the greatest performance since pre war Horowitz.But here today we were with a young man of extreme modesty who had asked me if I thought Leslie Howard might discuss some elements of the sonata with him so he could delve even deeper into a score that Leslie knows better than anyone alive ….or dead!I was overwhelmed by a performance where usually I am looking at my watch as one rhetorical phrase follows another without any regard to the very precise dynamic markings.Usually even more disturbed by a pulse that is continually interrupted to allow showmanship or heart on sleeve emotions.Liszt only writes fff two or three times in the whole sonata at crucial points of arrival as indeed ppp is only rarely used at moments of extreme delicacy or closure.Just in the last few pages we have indications of Presto.Prestissimo,Andante sostenuto,Allegro moderato and Lento assai but there should be a forward pulse that cannot allow for sentimentality.All this was scrupulously noted by Nikita but also with a sense of colour and delicacy that allowed him in some passages to split the left hand from the right for a split second that is the secret of great pianists in their search for the perfect legato on an instrument that only has hammers and strings!I have never been so enthralled as with the final three chords that seemed to disappear into infinity with a sensitivity to sound that was quite extraordinary.The final deep bass note almost inaudible as it had been at the opening.’p’,sotto voce Liszt asks at the opening as Nikita allowed the ominous whispered bass notes to cast their spell .The Allegro energico just growing out of this in such a natural unforced way as these three motives were expounded before they are transformed and elaborated in a way that was to influence Wagner soon after in their search for form, helped by transformation.There was a clarity to Nikita’s playing that was just as I remember from Agosti or Curzon where every detail could be heard so clearly adding to the emotional drive that is in this work from the first to the last note.There were so many memorable things that I could describe from the first Grandioso dissolving so naturally into the dolce con grazia .The forward movement of the cantando espressivo and the absolute clarity of what it led to .The excitement of the fortissimo that follows but with syncopated chords that for once we’re so clear and just added to the excitement without any pianistic distortions.A slight misreading of the marcato after the recitativo had me wondering if it was indeed a misreading or a deliberate choice to miss out the odd two quavers The three chords before the Andante sostenuto were as miraculous as the final three chords I have already spoken about .The Quasi Adagio,that in Richter’s hands lasted a miraculous eternity,were here played with such aristocratic sentiment but with an underlying forward movement that was the absolute hallmark that I remember of Agosti’s playing.The great throbbing chords in which passions are aroused was a miracle of control and brought us so emotionally to a climax which Liszt does infact mark fff.The allegro energico fugato was played with such refined dynamics that made the build up ever more exciting as more crescendo is asked for as we arrive at the recapitulation of the sonata form that Liszt still uses as a base.It was here that Gilels was unforgettable in his grandiose explosion of sound.Nikita may not have the personality yet of the great virtuosi but he does have something extra special which is the ability to look at the score with an intelligence and freshness away from tradition.With a fearless technical mastery that seems to know no difficulties one is reminded of Serkin’s comment on meeting the young Murray Perahia.’You told me he was good.But you did not tell me HOW good!

Aleksandr Scriabin wrote his Valse for solo piano Op. 38, in 1903, which was a particularly fruitful year in his production and it was published a year later.It is easy to see why Alexander Scriabin was known as “the Russian Chopin” as he wrote almost exclusively for the piano and began his career by composing mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, preludes and études. In this Valse we catch the composer near the end of his early Chopin period, before he started writing chords in 4ths rather than 3rds.It is a memory of a distant past and a magic box of sounds opening slowly, the intensifying, blinding light emitting from inside sets the universe ablaze just to vanish again at the end, leaving but a delicate taste.There is a feminine coyness and delicacy in many passages, with achingly nostalgic chromatic harmonies alternating with a more red-blooded and masculine ‘grand style’ of piano-playing that exploits the full range of the keyboard.This is a waltz that has a freedom of perfumed ecstasy with explosive outbursts of passion.A psychedelic waltz that is just a taste of what is yet to come from Scriabin ‘s multicoloured palette .Such sumptuous sounds in Nikita’s hands but what passion both restrained and fearless with a wonderful sense of improvised freedom.A jeux perlé of a different era,that of the greatest pianists who could astonish not with speed and volume but with their ravishing colours and seeming natural pianistic ease .Cherkassky or Moiseiwitch come to mind.

I had heard his magnificent Prokofiev only a month ago and have written in detail about it here: https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/05/04/nikita-lukinov-at-st-marys-no-pumpkins-just-the-magic-of-music-making-at-its-finest/

Nikita Lukinov was born in Russia in 1998. In 2005 he 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, the Diploma in the International Television Competition for young musicians – “Nutcracker”, 1st place in the Inter-Russian Concerto competition, where he performed a Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 Op.11 with on orchestra at the age of 14.After studying in Russia, Nikita moved to London to continue his studies at the Purcell School for Young Musicians . Nikita had a full scholarship to study there, where his musicianship was cultivated by Tatiana Sarkissova, also a Dmitry Bashkirov alumna. While studying at the Purcell School Nikita had his Kings Place and Wigmore Hall debuts – and he also won The Purcell School Concerto Competition. He performed Prokofiev Concerto No.1 Op.10 and Mozart Concerto No.15 K.450 with the Purcell School Orchestra at the age of 15.nNikita 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), The Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory and St. Petersburg Music House. So far Nikita has had masterclasses with Maestri Dmitry Bashkirov, Dmitry Alexeev, Andrzej Jasiński, Roy Howath, J-F. Bavouzet, Steven Osborne, Olga Kern, Vladimir Viardo, Dang Thai Son, Noriko Ogawa, Aaron Shorr, Kirill Gerstein, Boris Slutsky and Yaron Kohlberg .Nikita has received personal scholarships from Voronezh’s State Government “For Outstanding Cultural Achievements”, “Russian Children’s Foundation” and an international charity foundation “New Names”. Nikita also received a personal scholarship from the National Artist of Russia V. Ovchinnikov. He also received a scholarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein and participated in the Intensive Music Weeks and activities offered by the Academy in 2020. Nikita was invited for participation at the Verbier Music Academy 2020.Since September 2017 Nikita has been studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on a full scholarship with Petras Geniušas.

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