Described by Gramophone as “the most trailblazing and meteoric performer of all” in Rachmaninov and Prokofiev, and capable of great refinement and “crystalline beauty” (The Financial Times) in Mozart and Schubert, Nikolai Lugansky is a pianist of extraordinary depth and versatility.
He regularly works with top level conductors such as Osmo Vänskä, Yuri Temirkanov, Mikhail Pletnev, Gianandrea Noseda and Vladimir Jurowski. Concerto highlights for the 2018/2019 season include performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Russian National Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional de España, Iceland and Bamberg symphonies. A tour with Orchestre National de France took him to China and then onto Taipei and Japan with St Petersburg Philharmonic.
A regular recitalist the world over, upcoming performances include the International Piano Series in London, Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and a residency at Flagey in Brussels. He regularly appears at some of the worldʼs most distinguished festivals, including the Aspen, Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Verbier festivals. Chamber music collaborators include Vadim Repin, Alexander Kniazev, Mischa Maisky and Leonidas Kavakos.
Nikolai Lugansky has won a number of awards for his many recordings. His recital CD featuring Rachmaninovʼs Piano Sonatas won the Diapason d’Or and an ECHO Klassik Award while his recording of concertos by Grieg and Prokofiev with Kent Nagano and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice. His earlier recordings have also won a number of awards, including a Diapason dʼOr, BBC Music Magazine Award and ECHO Klassik prize. Lugansky has recently signed an exclusive contract with Harmonia Mundi and his most recent disc of Rachmaninov’s 24 Preludes, released in April 2018, met with enthusiastic reviews. He was described as having “an ability to enchant the ear… with a deep feeling for the music” (The Financial Times). His recording of solo piano music by Debussy was released in the 2018 anniversary year.
Lugansky is Artistic Director of the Tambov Rachmaninov Festival and is also a supporter of, and regular performer at, the Rachmaninov Estate and Museum of Ivanovka.
Nikolai Lugansky studied at Moscow’s Central Music School and the Moscow Conservatoire where his teachers included Tatiana Kestner, Tatiana Nikolayeva and Sergei Dorensky. He was awarded the honour of People’s Artist of Russia in April 2013.
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
Frederic Chopin (1810–1849), composer of Polish origin, was also an outstanding piano virtuoso. He spent the second half of his short life in Paris, which is why his composition has found its place in the “French” concert program today. He began to play the piano at the age of six under Czech-born pianist Vojtěch Živný and within a year he tried his hand at his first compositions (Polonaise in G minor and B flat major). Later he studied at the Lyceum and at the Warsaw Conservatory, where at nineteen he timidly fell in love with future singer Constance Gładkowska. This love was an emotional impulse, which gave Chopin the inspiration for composing his first concertante work – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F minor.
His first two concertos – in E minor and F minor – were created and published around the same time during the last two years of his residence in his homeland (1829–1830). Their order has not been determined by the date of origin, but that of publication. Concerto in F minor in three movements shows what models Chopin had at that time while he was still a student. The first movement Maestoso bears the stamp of the stile brillante and Chopin’s admiration for piano masters such as Liszt and Humell. Chopin, an artist of fragile nature, was not able to express his youthful love, and used the second movement Larghetto as intimate confession. The rondo form of the final third movement is in accordance with the conventions of the genre and sounds with the rhythm of a Polish dance – mazurka. The world premiere of this concert was held on 17 March 1830 in Warsaw in the great hall of the National Theater and it was Chopin’s first public appearance.
One of the finest composer-pianists of all time, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) did not have a carefree childhood – an unfavorable family situation had a negative effect on his mental health. After the poor reception of his First Symphony in D minor in October 1897 young Rachmaninoff fell into a period of deep depression and had to undergo medical treatment for several years. When at the turn of the century Rachmaninoff completed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in C minor Op. 18, he dedicated it with gratitude to his doctor Nikolai Dahl, thanks to whom he recovered his confidence and was eventually able to compose again.
The first performance of the concerto, at which only the second and third movements were heard, took place in Moscow in December 1900 with Rachmaninoff at the piano and Alexander Siloti as the conductor. The full piece was enthusiastically received a year later at its premiere given by the same musicians and this piano concerto in three movements has since become one of the most popular and frequently played concertos by Rachmaninoff.
In 1892 Dvořák accepted an invitation to the United States for three years and became the director of the National Conservatory in New York. After a short stay overseas, in the winter of 1893 he started working on his new Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’. This composition was conceived in order to prove Dvořák’s theory regarding the use of the characteristic elements of African-American and Native-American music for the emergence of the ‘American national school’, which did not exist at the time of Dvořák’s sojourn in the United States. Experts have debated for more than one hundred years about whether Dvořák used in his symphony specific tunes of Negro songs or not. Dvořák himself gave an ambiguous answer to this question. Once he said, “I’m just finishing a new Sinfonia in E minor. Well, everyone who has instincts must feel the influence of America.” At another time he made a seemingly contradictory statement: “It has been and always will be Czech music.” Another question is to what extent Dvořák could really get to know American music during such a short period of his stay in America, and how much he actually wished to create something for America, which in the beginning treated him so generously and which was certainly very fascinating for him. Structurally, the Ninth Symphony has a very precise, almost textbook form of individual movements. Subconsciously, however, Dvořák must have “quoted” at least one of the familiar tunes since the theme of the first movement is noticeably reminiscent of the Negro spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The second movement, Largo, might have been inspired by The Song of Hiawatha, while the third movement of the symphony has, according to Dvořák, “something of the Indian character”. In the final fourth movement Dvořák has combined all the themes of the symphony. This perfect management of form in connection with imaginative melodies, harmonies and instrumentation mastery form together a truly unique work of genius. Finally, let us quote from The New York Times in 1893: “We Americans should thank and honor the Bohemian master who has shown us how to build our national school of music.”
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