Alexei Lubimov

Pianist

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Discography

 

Born in Moscow in 1944, Alexei Lubimov is one of the most strikingly original and outstanding pianists performing today. His large repertoire combined with his dedication to principle and musical morals make him a notable exception in today’s music scene.

Following studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Heinrich Neuhaus, Lubimov early in life established a dual passion for Baroque music performed on traditional instruments and for 20th century composers ranging from Schönberg, Stockhausen, Boulez, Ives and Ligeti, to his contemporaries Sofia Gubaidulina and Arvo Pärt. He first attracted notice with his compelling performances of modern scores, and in 1968 played the Moscow debuts of works by John Cage and Terry Riley.  He premiered many 20th century pieces in Russia, where Soviet authorities heavily criticized his commitment to Western music and prevented him from leaving the Soviet Union for several years. So Lubimov concentrated on working with period (original) instruments of the 16th and 17th centuries, and founded the Moscow Baroque Quartet and the Moscow Chamber Academy, as well as the avant-garde music festival "Alternativa" in 1988. He continues to perform both ‘old’ and ‘new’ music on his many recordings, and also records classical and romantic repertoire of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Political restrictions were lifted during the 1980’s, and Lubimov soon emerged among the first rank of international pianists, performing on tour in Europe, North America and Japan. He made his U.S. debut in 1991 as soloist with Andrew Parrott and his Classical Band in New York.  Lubimov has since played piano concerti with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and with the Philharmonics of Helsinki, Israel, Munich and St. Petersburg, the Royal Philharmonic in London, Russian National Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonie de Radio France, Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin, and the Toronto Symphony.  He performs with the world’s most important international conductors, including Ashkenazy, Järvi, Kondrashin, Hogwood, Mackerras, Nagano, Norrington, Pletnev, Saraste, Salonen, Janovski and Tortelier. Alexei Lubimov has given historic performances with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Wiener Akademie and the Collegium Vocale Gent. His renowned chamber music partners are Andreas StaierNatalia GutmanPeter SchreierHeinrich SchiffChristian TetzlaffGidon KremerIvan Monighetti, and Wieland Kuijken

In recent seasons Alexei Lubimov has given numerous solo recitals and concerts with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra in Moscow and the Tonkünstlerorchester in the Great Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein. He toured with the Haydn Sinfonietta playing Mozart concertos, played Mozart with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana under Robert King, Haydn with the Camerata Salzburg under Sir Roger Norrington in New York, and Pärt’s Lamentate with the RSO Vienna under Andrey Boreyko at the Musikverein and with the Tampere Philharmonic under John Storgards.He performed Prometeus by Scriabin at the 2010 Salzburg Festival and in Copenhagen, and played concertos with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment (Beethoven), Munich Philharmonic (Silvestrov), SWR Stuttgart (Pärt), DSO Berlin (Pärt), Danish National Symphony Orchestra (Pärt), Anima Eterna Brugge and Russian National Orchestra. In 2010 he played recitals in Brussels, Utrecht, Budapest, Lille, London, Los Angeles and New York City, where he returned in 2011 for performances with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under conductor Ivan Fischer.

Alexei Lubimv’s numerous recordings include piano duets with Andreas Staier on Teldec, a much praised recording of the complete Mozart piano sonatas (on fortepiano) on Erato and a series of unusual recordings on ECM. His recordings have been issued on the Melodia, Erato, BIS, Sony. ECM and Harmonia Mundi labels, with repertoire by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Brahms, as well as music of the 20th century. Since 2003 he has recorded regularly for ECM, producing CDs of particular note: Der Bote, with music of Liszt, Glinka and CPE Bach alongside John Cage and Tigran Mansurian; Arvo Pärt'sLamentate with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony’ Messe Noir with music of Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Scriabin; and Misteriosos with music of Silvestrov, Ustvolskaya and Pärt. ECM New Music will release his recording of Debussy Preludes in July 2012.

 

RECORDING REVIEWS:

 

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, op. 109, 110, 111

ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZ110103

Top Classical Albums of 2011

Lubimov plays three of the most profound sonatas ever written, on a piano made in Beethoven’s time. His struggles with the old instrument enhance the deep humanity of the music.

Debussy: Préludes  ECM New Series 467

Alexei Lubimov, Alexei Zuev ECM New Series 467 4735 (2 CDs) ****

“Debussy's piano repertoire is not a novelty on disc but there is an intriguing back story here: Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov came across two old pianos which inspired a new, more authentic "period instrument" approach to Debussy's Préludes (1909-12). One was a 1913 Steinway, gathering dust in the Polish Embassy in Brussels, the other a 1925 Bechstein. ‘Like Ulysses bewitched by the Sirens, I let my pianos sing… and guide me into uncharted realms,’ Lubimov says. He uses the Bechstein, light-toned and translucent, for the Préludes Livre 1, the Steinway, more vivid and rich, in Livre 2. Both are used in the two-piano arrangement of Trois Nocturnes and Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, in which Lubimov is joined by Alexei Zuev. The results are at once fresh and enigmatic.”

– Fiona Maddocks THE OBSERVER, June 2, 2012

 

“Recording Debussy on historic instruments is not a new idea. Philippe Cassard used a Bechstein from 1900, and Stany David Lasry played Erards from 1874 and 1921 in recordings made in the 1990s. The older instruments tend to produce a mellower tone that’s less even in finish than their modern equivalents, and they’re apt to sound more stressed under pressure. You might think of the effect as hand-finished rather than machine perfect. Even more fascinating are the textures and sonorities from the two together.  Alexei Lubimov here uses a 1925 Bechstein for the first book of Preludes and a 1913 Steinway for the second, and pairs them for performances of two-piano arrangements of the orchestral Nocturnes and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune with Alexei Zuev.”

- Michael Dervan THE IRISH TIMES, June 22, 2012

 

5 STARS!  Album: Debussy (ECM)

“Pianist Alexei Lubimov continues his quest to find the perfect match of repertoire and instrument in this extraordinary survey of Debussy's Préludes.  A 1925 Bechstein provides the pellucidity and percussive brilliance for Book 1, a 1913 Steinway an exotic, satin-finished soundworld for Book 2. The textures are intense and immediate, the blend of the instruments beguiling as Lubimov is joined by Alexei Zuev for Trois Nocturnes for two pianos."

 - Anna Picard, THE INDEPENDENT, May 27, 2012          

 

 “Lubimov's peerless recording of Schubert's Impromptus contrasted the timbres of two period keyboards. Here, he uses just one. The percussive delicacy of his 1828 Graf fortepiano emphasizes the curious mixture of playfulness and reverence in the E major Sonata, while embracing the A flat Sonata's symphonic ambition. In the C minor Sonata, heart and mind are torn between the gravity of the work and the beauty of Lubimov's musicianship. A thrilling dilemma.”

- THE INDEPENDENT, Anna Picard     Sunday, 10 April 2011

 

“The Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov is nothing if not a perfectionist, and he searched long and hard to find historical instruments that would satisfy his requirements in these pieces. Both instruments are capable of subtle gradations of colour, and it’s worth putting up with the occasional creak from the keyboard action, or perhaps the pedals, for the sake of the beauty of tone Lubimov coaxes from them. It would be hard to imagine a warmer or more lyrical performance of the song without words that forms the penultimate piece from the D899 collection; or a smoother and more delicate account of the pianissimo first variation on the Rosamunde theme in Impromptu No. 3 from D935. Lubimov has opted to play the outer sections of the Allegretto second piece of D935 with the so-called moderator pedal, which interposes a piece of cloth between hammers and strings, to produce a veiled sound. The tone-quality is well suited to the start of pianissimo theme itself, though it makes its more forceful second half sound curiously muted. It’s possible, too, to feel that Lubimov makes a meal out of the characteristically Schubertian turn from minor to major in the opening number of the D899 set.  But this is altogether a beautiful recital by a master-pianist, and while there’s no shortage of fine recordings of these famous pieces, there has been none in my experience to equal Lubimov on instruments of Schubert’s day.”

- BBC Music Magazine – May 2010

 

5 stars. "Alexei Lubimov is not one of those fingerless pianists who would have chosen pianoforte to find a place under the sun nor a specialist from the baroque world: he is an absolute pianist, known from the USRR for his contemporary music recitals and his involvement in resurrecting Scriabin’s last work (L’acte prealable). His first French recordings were dedicated to Mozart on pianoforte (Erato). So here is this great artist, this great musician, original but always on the right track, the music’s track not the ego’s, playing Schubert on two pianofortes with strong personalities, very well captured. But a beautiful sound without the phrases, breathing and rhythmic vitality eloquence would only be an ocean of nice piano. But with Lubimov’s very unique natural sophistication, tenderness and proximity of playing, one forgets the piano's sounds and dives into Schubert’s mystery, caught up in the infinitely subtle nuances that make music. Everything flows naturally."  

- Diapason - March 2010

 

 “It’s amazing what can find its way into an attic.  An 1810 Matthias Müller piano, for instance, now restored and used for the first set of Schubert’s Impromptus, D899, in Andrei Lubimov’s recording, is a beautiful instrument. Use of its soft pedal in the G flat major work emphasizes the gentlest twang of the string, the accompanimental arpeggios are wonderfully clear and there is power in reserve for the darker music at the heart of the A flat Impromptu. The piano used for the D935 set is a Joseph Schantz, built in 1830. It offers a less silvery, more rounded sound. This disc is not just a sonic exhibition, but a series of deeply satisfying, expressive performances.”

- The (London) Times - Feb 21, 2010

REVIEWS IN CONCERT:

 

A recital at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center:
The pianist Alexei Lubimov has an unusually broad range of specialties, and he touched on the extremes during a short residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. He demonstrated his fascination with new music in two performances of John Cage’s ‘Four Walls’ in a staging with choreography created by Merce Cunningham. Mr. Lubimov’s other side is his reputation as a fortepianist known for commanding, often broad-boned interpretations of Classical and early Romantic works. He appeared in that capacity on Tuesday evening, and this time had the stage to himself. Even if you are used to the fortepiano’s sound, it takes a few moments to adjust to the older instrument’s differences in weight and coloration. Mr. Lubimov exploited those differences in his account of Beethoven’s Sonata in E Major by using a relatively light touch at first, which yielded pure but pale timbres at the top end of the keyboard and tones with the hint of a quiver in the middle and lower ranges. Mr. Lubimov abandoned that delicacy and restraint gradually, addressing the Prestissimo second movement energetically and producing a lush-textured finale. Glinka’s Bellini Introduction and Variations was an entertaining canvas on which Mr. Lubimov could show off the fluidity and coloristic range of the fortepiano. Two Schubert Impromptus benefited from readings that deftly and movingly balanced their tension and poetry. But the program’s center of gravity was Mr. Lubimov’s powerful account of Beethoven’s final Sonata in C minor, an aggressive reading that emphasized the unabashed dissonances that drive the work’s passionate opening sections, as well as the pained lyricism of the Arietta. It was, as a performance of this work must be, an unsettled and unsettling drama with a sublime, otherworldly resolution. But it was also a startling reminder of the degree to which Beethoven’s music challenged (and strained) the resources of the pianos of his time, a point lost in even the best performances on a modern instrument.”

- New York Times - March 28, 2012

 

“Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov played the first in a series of Late-Night Elegies programs, offering eight shorter works. They ranged boldly from a restless and strangely reflective fantasia by C. P. E. Bach to an explosive and brutally spiritual sonata by Galina Ustvolskaya, bursting with dense cluster chords. Mr. Lubimov’s program was ideally conceived for this festival. Throughout, he played with clarity, sensitivity and beautiful colorings.”

New York Times – Nov. 12, 2010

 

“The Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov won the prize for the most inventively spiritual program. His bold juxtapositions of works really put his audience in a spiritual place.”

- New York Times - Nov. 17, 2010

 

“Lubimov is a compact, scholarly looking man. He gets from the piano an exceedingly beautiful tone like that of the great Russian keyboard masters before him. He is an introspective player. His lyricism is a marvel. In Schubert, Chopin, Mozart or Brahms, he can send a listener into the most delicious reveries. And because of that, he is a wonderful subversive. Although eclecticism is easier to get away with these days, Lubimov is still hard to pin down.  Performed without a break, this fanciful journey lasted not much longer than an hour. Time is relative, and the accommodations were deluxe, so it is hard to complain. But Lubimov has not been in our neck of the woods for a long while, and this was too little from a pianist who covers so much territory.”

Los Angeles Times – Nov. 16, 2010

 

 “Lubimov held the room spellbound throughout: a slow, peaceful drift into the night.”

- Feast of Music.com – Nov. 12, 2010

 

“Lubimov, who made his name bucking authority in the former Soviet Union by playing Western contemporaries like Cage and Ligeti, was ideal. The program was a thoughtful and intelligent one entitled ’The Messenger.’ Lubimov’s playing is crisp and clean and, above all else, quite meditative in this context. But what I admired most about the program was his intention to go beyond simply pointing out musical similarities between the works from different centuries. Instead, he was looking for something different that unfurled or played out across the nine pieces. Central to this was the concept that all of the selections were written in the most personal way, solely for the satisfaction of the composer him or herself. He invited the audience to think of them as ‘a diary not meant for publication, in which you note down only what is most personal.’ The short works like C.P.E. Bach’sFantasia in F-sharp minor sound as if they could have been written sometime in the last two decades, while others, such as Georgs Pelecis’ Suite No. 3 from 1985 could sound particularly Classical in manner. But there was always another layer in the works and their performance that addressed the idea of communication with the past. Hearing Lubimov play these works was a kind of miracle, one that reinforced how even the most jarring and discordant of contemporary sounds, ones that are often ascribed to modern malaise and dysphoria, have just as much to say to us about hope and the possible. And it was a wonderful start to another season of Monday Evening Concerts.”

OutWestArts – Nov. 16, 2010

 

 “When the Kissinger Sommer enters the path of the unusual, it often brings a great reward for the audience. So it was on Friday afternoon, with 20th Century Russian piano music. With Alexei Lubimov at the piano, we had the one man, who as an advocate of the Russian avant-garde, holds the special key for this sometimes unwieldy music. The tension under which Lubimov had to work in the decades of dictatorship until the dissolution of the Soviet Union were reflected in repertoire that ranged from historical performance practice on fortepiano to the rugged Brutalism of Russian modernism. The brilliant Lubimov worked out the characteristics of composition of his compatriots finely and sensitively, his somewhat sharp articulation fitting the works that followed: Russian classics of Shostakovich, Scriabin and Prokofiev, whose Piano Sonata No. 7 from the war-year 1942, with its striking motor activity and its aggressive Expressionism naturally outshone the rest at the conclusion of a wisely chosen program.”

Main Post – July 27, 2010

 

With the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Queen Elizabeth Hall:

“The inevitable sense of anticlimax was largely allayed by the seasoned Russian pianist. Lubimov's firm and persuasive way with Beethoven's melodic lines gave him equal footing with the orchestra, and his phrasing spurred the wind soloists on, introducing some sudden, magical pedal effects.”            

- The Guardian - May 28, 2010

 

“Stepping into the breach was Moscow-born Alexei Lubimov, who played a fortepiano, offering a different experience given the instrument’s softer sound, restricted range, and limited ability to sustain. But any such initial impression soon passed as the ears acclimatised, and a delightful sense of intimacy was experienced. Lubimov is a disarmingly slight, intellectual-looking figure…. crystalline delicacy of his performance and his ability to sustain sound, notwithstanding the fortepiano’s limitations. After the first-movement cadenza, touchingly effective here, the veiled effect achieved by the fortepiano’s dampened strings was quite special. Lubimov brought a beautifully simple expressivity to the Largo and the orchestra’s accompaniment was equally memorable. There was real bounce to the finale, Lubimov’s nimble playing counterpoised with many more entrancing orchestral timbres.”          

- Classical Source.com - May 25, 2010

 

 “Alexander Lubimov found an ideal sonority and combined perfectly with the orchestra; I'd never heard a more satisfactory and engrossing performance of romantic piano concerto in the Festival Hall. His tone was full, and well balanced even when playing with the orchestra. A small figure at the keyboard, he has an admirable technique and found power without forcing or any visible effort.”

- Musical Pointers - May 2010

 

 “If the western marketing industry had integrated him, he would have been as appreciated here as the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard: both exceptional pianists because they have directed their tremendous skills towards contemporary music and promoted, with great openness, early music practice. Lubimov phrases very precisely, though not stiff, like someone who would recite those verses with inherent sympathy. He speaks through his fingers: very sensitive, light and finely cut.

Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung - Jan 5, 2010

 

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto in G Minor, London Philharmonic, New York City:

“The pianist Alexei Lubimov gave a stellar performance of the work at Avery Fisher Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Mr. Lubimov performed the concerto with fiery panache. He energetically plunged into the chordal opening and gracefully played the enigmatic Chopinesque theme later in the first movement. Mr. Jurowski, the Philharmonic’s principal conductor since 2007, led a richly hued performance that mirrored the pianist’s spirited interpretation. The wit of the first section is replaced by a Grieg-like lyricism in the more melodic second movement, rendered here with soothing introspection by orchestra and soloist. Mr. Lubimov’s virtuosic playing in the exuberant finale - featuring an initial mad dash that soon morphs into Rachmaninoff’s familiar lushness - was notable for its crisply defined energy. This almost jazzy movement ends in boisterous triumph.”

- New York Times – March 2, 2009

 

 “… adept at bringing out the jazz inflection in Rachmaninov’s notes, and displayed a wonderfully flowing technique in many passages, particularly in the swan-like ripples at the end of the first movement.”

- ClassicalSource.com - March 1, 2009

 

“Mr. Lubimov’s piano playing had an easier time, offering a shining, easy beauty that filled the hall. ...brisk, free of cinematic sentiment, he gives the illusion of keeping strict time while subtly pushing and pulling at tempos. This is what Mozart is about.”

New York Times

 

“Lubimov proved himself a flexible, inspired partner. For him, selfless following obviously is no more fruitful than aggressive leading. The versatile Muscovite did his own Romantic singing at the keyboard - always warm and sympathetic, virtuosic yet understated, assertive yet poetic. Don't call him an accompanist.” 

- Los Angeles Times

 

“Lubimov’s instrument...played once by Mozart himself...comes to life when played with the musicality and sense of fantasy displayed by this remarkable pianist.”

The Sunday Times (London)