NIKOLAI Lugansky is one of the great Rachmaninov pianists of his generation, and his new recording features breathtaking performances of the composer's two Piano Sonatas. The second is by far the better known, and Lugansky's performance is launched with a thrilling plunge to the depths of the bass register. It's a fantastic rendition marked by Lugansky's intellectual mastery of the structure of the music and profound understanding of its dark emotional contours; the slow movement is a haunting masterpiece here, while the finale is a demonstration of glittering virtuosity with no scrambling, just lucid articulation. The First Sonata exists in two versions: Rachmaninov left the choice of which version to the pianist. (Maybe his dinner was on the table.) Lugansky plays a hybrid, leaning more towards the first (more difficult and lengthy) version. There's a Faustian theme, with some characterisation of the main figures, but frankly, in this glorious performance, which demonstrates how underrated the sonata is, I prefer to listen in the abstract.