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For Tatiana Nikolayeva, Nikolai Lugansky was ‘the next one’, an opinion born out on many occasions including this new recording devoted to César Franck.

Although the Prélude, Choral et Fugue is no longer a staple of the repertoire – today’s artists are apt to shy away from Franck’s overt emotionalism – Lugansky reminds us of its true stature. Arguably, his Russian roots make him particularly responsive to the spiritual turbulence at the heart of Franck’s genius.

There is nothing of the studio about Lugansky’s seeming spontaneity and his total immersion in Franck’s troubled soul. His big hands bestride with ease the awkward unpianistic demands at the start of the Prélude, Aria et Final, and his response to Franck’s hymnal piety puts a lie to the late James Gibb’s dismissal of the composer’s harmonic progressions. Throughout, Lugansky makes you more than aware of the constant battle between light and dark, the secular and the spiritual. His own transcription of the organ Chorale No 2 is a sombre and magisterial reworking of the original. While no one has ever equalled Cortot’s unique speaking and singing eloquence in the two masterpieces, Lugansky’s disc is surely among the finest modern alternatives.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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