Grigory Sokolov is recognized as a titan among classical musicians. The Russian pianist’s interpretative insights and visionary musicianship arise from absolute dedication to his art and total immersion in every piece he performs. His Deutsche Grammophon debut album of works by Mozart and Chopin, The Salzburg Recital, ended an extended period during which he issued no new recordings. It drew worldwide critical acclaim, received a coveted ECHO Klassik Award, and became one of the Yellow Label’s best-selling core classical titles of 2015. Sokolov’s new album, to be issued a year after the first, is poised to join its predecessor as a major landmark of the piano catalogue. Sokolov: Schubert/Beethoven, scheduled for release on 15 January 2016, confirms why audiences are prepared to queue overnight for a chance to hear the maestro’s peerless artistry.
Sokolov’s new two-disc set comprises interpretations of such late masterworks by Schubert as the Four Impromptus D899 (including a spellbinding account of the Impromptu No. 3 in G flat major) and Beethoven’s monumental “Hammerklavier” Sonata. It also presents beguiling readings of a generous selection of encores: five sparkling miniatures by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Brahms’s Intermezzo in B flat minor Op. 117 No. 2. The Beethoven and the encore pieces, recorded live at the 2013 Salzburg Festival, were greeted with ecstatic press reviews. The Salzburger Nachrichten described Sokolov’s music-making as “a miracle of pictorial pianism”, while Seen and Heard International was convinced that “no one alive, and perhaps ever, on whatever instrument, has played Rameau with such distinction”.
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” makes extreme technical and musical demands on the artist, as it probes the limits of the keyboard and piano writing. The four-movement work, written in 1817–18 and lasting 52 minutes in Sokolov’s interpretation, was completed at a time of great emotional turmoil in the composer’s life. Sokolov’s approach to the piece counterbalances its heroic striving with rare glimpses into the score’s underlying lyricism and intense poetic spirit. In its review of Sokolov’s Salzburg recital, Der Tagespiegel noted that the pianist “possesses not only a superior technique and a more refined sense of style than others, but also a whole added dimension. In the last movement of the ‘Hammerklavier’ one usually hears the conversation of different voices, but he also creates the space in which that dialogue is taking place.”
Sokolov’s Schubert was recorded live at Warsaw’s Philharmonic Concert Hall in May 2013. It opens with the Four Impromptus D899 and is crowned by readings of the Three Piano Pieces D946, sublime works completed not long before the composer’s death in 1828.
Grigory Sokolov will perform all over Europe in the first half of 2016 including 12 recitals in Germany and concerts in Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Austria, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland and The Netherlands.
Photo © Mary Slepkova / DG