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About the program

The Russian piano soloist, Nikolai Lugansky, will be the special guest of Gábor Takács-Nagy and the Festival Orchestra for the duration of the Russian night. The concerts will feature two 20th century classics, followed by a piece rarely heard in Hungary, by one of the greats of Romanticism.

As well as his compositions for the concert hall and musical stage, Shostakovich wrote a number of pieces of incidental music for film and theatre. Shakespeare’s Hamlet accompanied him throughout his life – he first composed incidental music to the play in 1931-32, then later assembled it into a famous suite that has been performed regularly ever since. Later still, he composed new theatrical music for Hamlet, and wrote the music to Kozitsev’s groundbreaking Shakespeare film. We will be performing the 1932 suite during the concert.

As the composer of the second piece on the programme, performed today with Nikolai Lugansky, recalled: “My second piano concerto premiered on September 5th, 1913 in Pavlovsk, and was conducted by Aslanov. The premiere had a stupendous effect.” The St. Petersburg Gazette devoted an entire column to the concert, detailing how, “A young man who seemed barely out of school appeared on stage. This was Sergei Prokofiev. He sat down at the piano and was apparently occupied either with dusting the keys or with blindly smashing them under his hard, dry touch. The audience could make nothing of it. There were indignant murmurs. A couple leapt up and made for the exit, proclaiming that “This music is driving us insane!” The hall started to empty. The young artist concluded his concerto with a cacophony of chords mercilessly accompanied by the brass section, Causing outrage in the audience. The majority of the spectators booed and hissed. Prokofiev bowed mockingly, sat down at the piano again and played an encore. On the other hand, modernist critics were enraptured. “Brilliant!” They cried. “Fantastic! Such temperament! Such originality!”

The popularity of the first trio of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies has never come close to matching that of his latter three. It is irrelevant to argue with taste, and indeed the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth symphonies are exceptional masterpieces. However, it is interesting to listen to their predecessors as well. The young composer, enthralled by Russian folk music, often drew on the motifs of these folk songs. He even went so far as to base every melody in his Second symphony on them. This helps explains why the work was posthumously nicknamed the ‘Little Russian’ or ‘Ukrainian’.


Dmitri Shostakovich: Hamlet – Suite, Op. 32
Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17


Gábor Takács-Nagy


Nikolai Lugansky, piano