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The Gold Standard in piano playing (Sokolov IS a legend in his own time)

I was greeted by two e-mails yesterday that bore links to Grigory Sokolov’s digitized recital at the Theatre des Champs Elysee in Paris. (2002) The communication from Seymour Bernstein read as follows:

“Stop whatever you are doing! You are about to hear performances that
certainly must rank among the greatest examples of music making and piano
virtuosity. I would call this recital legendary. Most of us are of two minds
concerning modern technology. But with these performances, all negative
opinions must vanish. We have to be grateful that we are privy to such an
overpowering experience.”

A direct You Tube link:

To the second friend who e-mailed me a link to Piano Street’s feature on Sokolov, I wrote back confirmation of playing that sent me into a state of permanent ecstasy.

To a third friend, who happens to be a world-class pianist, I bubbled with unabashed praise raised to a higher, more articulate level.

“Everything about the playing, from every perspective is awesome!

“I’m now listening to the 2-hour recital via you tube, and will no doubt re-watch and re-listen.

“The technical command is drop dead phenomenal.. an extraordinary tonal palette at his easy disposal… the orchestral range, and then a sense of voicing in a chamber music dimension when needed…don’t forget the opera…. This fellow is something else! Phrasing to melt the heart and rouse the passions in us.

“Why have I not been made aware of him to this point?

“Now I’m into finding out MORE! Worth many blogs into the night and the following day.”


Impassioned and inspired, I raced to the official website:

Grigory Sokolov (My emphasis in BOLD)

Grigory Sokolov (born April 18, 1950 in Leningrad)

“In the 40 years since the 16-year-old Grigory Sokolov was awarded first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1966, the world has been blessed with what one American critic recently called “a kind of pianism, musicianship and artistry one thought had vanished forever”. Championed at a young age by Emil Gilels and a prominent figure on the Russian music scene since his early teens, Sokolov has gained an almost mythical status amongst music-lovers and pianophiles throughout the world. He is considered by many today to be the world’s greatest living pianist. Ever since his first major piano recital in Leningrad at the age of 12, Sokolov has amazed everyone again and again with the enormous breadth of his repertoire and his huge, almost physical musical strength. Using little pedal, and thus superior finger-work, he draws from the concert grand an immense variety of sounds; he has an unlimited palette of colors, a spontaneous imagination and a magical control of line. His interpretations are poetic and highly individual, and his rhythmic freedom and elasticity of phrase are perhaps unequaled among pianists today.

“Those who are used to his art are most particularly attracted by the naturalness of his performing manner, which is part of his artistic credo. His playing betrays no influence from past masters, his style and approach are entirely his own, and are completely unique. Whatever Grigory Sokolov performs, be it a Pavane of William Byrd, a Bach Fantasia, Chopin Mazurka or a Prelude of Ravel, it suddenly sounds completely new. Even a familiar Beethoven Sonata can be rediscovered as a new piece. But all this magic has its earthly roots: Sokolov knows more about a Steinway than many piano technicians, and before he sits down to play a strange instrument, he first examines its inner mechanics, taking it to pieces. He is used to studying for many hours every day, and even on the day of a concert, practices on stage for hours, “getting to know” the piano. That he prefers his CDs to be recorded live is not surprising, since he likes to capture the sacred moments of a real, live concert and avoid the sterile atmosphere of a studio.

“Grigory Sokolov is a regular guest of the most prestigious concert halls and festivals of Europe. He has performed in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Salzburg, Munich, Rome, New York, and worked with many of the world’s most prominent conductors including Myung-Whun Chung, Valery Gergiev, Trevor Pinnock, Neeme Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Sakari Oramo, Alexander Lazarev, Moshe Atzmon, etc. He has worked with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Münchner Philharmoniker, Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Philharmonia and Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Sokolov has made a number of live recordings for Melodya and Opus 111 labels. These include works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin, and Tchaikovsky. The most recent publication is a DVD directed by Bruno Monsaingeon filming a recital of Grigory Sokolov at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris.


NO more need be said except that great pianists may not come in big commercial packages!


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