Sunday, November 02, 2008

Grigori Sokolov

He (Sokolov on the right side) won the Tschaikovski competition at age 16 in 1966 with Gilels heading the jurors.
Then he only was allowed to play in the west since the late 80s, a whopping 25 years later.
Yet, he mainly tours through Europe and does only sparely record live CDs that do hardly any justice to his music.

Have a look at this Couperin Tic -Toc -Choc! It is fantastic, yet the sound just gives a glimpse at what it is to hear him live!

He will play the Mozart sonatas soon on 2008-10-06 in Zurich. Here is a report in the New York Times of someone who has heard the program before.

The Web, on which he can be found on YouTube, giving astonishing performances, clearly doesn’t substitute for hearing him live. Neither do discs, which, as a perfectionist, he stopped issuing in 1995 (this partly explains his American situation), although years ago Mr. Sokolov’s recordings sent me hunting for a chance to hear him in person.
Fully agree, just, that I myself never listen to his recordings and would have missed his live performances had I not been pointed to his concerts.
He tackled two Mozart sonatas before the Chopin preludes Tuesday night. In his case an imposing, muscular, distinctly Russian technique combines with large, church-bell sonority. Even small preludes occasionally invoked Mussorgsky. A tendentious, soulful interpreter by inclination, he avoids any hint of routine. One imagines he never allows himself to play anything the same way twice. Sometimes, as in the Mozart, this leads toward mannerism. Humorous he is certainly not. Purists might balk, but never is he just perverse or uninteresting. At heart he’s a colorist, an intimist, melancholic, with astonishing tonal nuances and an endless, much-trafficked variety of touches.

The slow movements of the sonatas acquired moments of gravity that seemed almost to have physical weight. But the preludes were the true revelation: profoundly original, magisterial, heartfelt. The audience sat through them in complete, rapt silence. Long lines breathed to an elastic rhythm. Preludes like the one in B flat minor galloped and raced. Those in F sharp and D flat produced moments of faraway, unearthly beauty. I can’t at the moment recall anything like them.

Here was a great artist. If his case proves anything, it’s that Europe and America remain separated by more than an ocean. After he had been called back for encore after encore — a half-dozen by the end — the crowd still stood and roared. Mr. Sokolov finally retreated, as he had arrived, expressionless, with a brusque nod, bent slightly at the waist, one hand fastened behind his back like a captain on the deck of his ship, facing into a nasty head wind.
BTW, to my surprise he is a totally different personality back stage. While on stage he and his music is as serious and grave as it can get (well, somewhere in the Arrau and Richter ball park), afterwards with the visitors he was totally relaxed, friendly, smiling, and talkative.

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