Mix Michelangeli with Richter and you come close to Sokolov
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Grigory Sokolov was not particularly on my radar screen--I'd heard his CD of 'Art of the Fugue' only--until a friend lent me this DVD. But, boy, is he in the center of the scope now! This pianist is absolutely superb, and one of a kind I suspect. First of all, he reportedly does not make recordings unless they are done live and preferably in one take. He has not, as far as I know, ever been filmed before, certainly not by anyone as sensitive as music filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon, whose Richter videos are well-known. This DVD is a two-hour recital filmed straight, with no editing other than for camera angle choices. There are really only a few stationary cameras, and generally each camera shot is a lengthy one so that there isn't the frenetic intercutting one so often sees, presumably to jazz things up a bit. We get plenty of close-ups of Sokolov's hands.
The program is strong. He starts with three early Beethoven sonatas, Nos. 9, 10 and 15, played without pause--that is, there are no breaks and no applause until the end of the third sonata. Sokolov is an extremely meticulous technician, but he is not mechanical in the least. Indeed there are what some might call rather many tempo and dynamic variations. But the overall results are powerful, sensitive and expressive readings of what are, after all, fairly early works that could be played as if by Haydn, and often are. The slow movements--two of them gorgeous sets of variations--are particularly effective. Sokolov's control is amazing. His legato is seamless and he seems to manage it without much finger-shifting. His attacks in fortissimi are frightening in their intensity and they are also absolutely spotless technically. This is what reminds me so much of Michelangeli. One has the feeling that every single note, transition, dynamic, tempo has been considered deeply.
After the interval comes a set of six dances by the single-named Armenian composer, Komitas (1869-1935; sometimes called Komitas Vartabed but born Soghomon Soghomonian). They are like nothing I'd ever heard before. They are based on folk melodies and are extraordinarily strangely laid out for the piano. The first dance, for instance, is played with the two hands entirely in unison but two octaves apart. Yet, there are diversions and interruptions in the line rather like what one gets in an unaccompanied violin piece, but not for counterpoint per se. Rather, the diversions are in the nature of imitations of percussion instruments or other indigenous instruments. The six dances taken together are hypnotic in their Near Eastern melos and fervor. I was really quite taken by them.
This, then, is followed by Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata in the most titanic performance I've ever heard. Richter is the only player who is in the same league with this one. The intensity of the attack is, again, frightening and if there were any dropped notes I certainly didn't catch them. In the gentler sections there is a passionate singing tone. The first movement is still resounding in my mind's ear.
There are several encores--Chopin, Couperin, the Siloti arrangement of Bach's B minor prelude, BWV855a--that round out a very satisfying evening. The recital was performed in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysée before a quiet but appreciative audience. Sound is lifelike.
Scott Morrison "
Sokolov Should Be A House-Hold Name: A Genuine Herculean Vir
Dr. Ervin Nieves | 10/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may be the most effortlessly herculean performance of piano playing I've seen on DVD. After playing three Beethoven sonatas in their entirety, Sokolov continues and delivers what amounts to three recitals at one sitting. But we are not talking merely of stamina here. Maestro Sokolov -- of whom I had never heard a word -- is unquestionably one of the world's best least-known pianist. His technique is far greater than Brendl's or even Kissin's (which would have been better had Kissin's teacher not failed to correct Kissin's improper claw-shaped hands). I haven't been as excited about a pianist since I discovered Arcadi Volodos. Sokolov's reclusiveness is certainly the reason he is not a house-hold name. Here is a genuine "maestro" or "grand maestro" of the piano of the highest level. Buy this DVD with your eyes closed. You will NEVER NEVER regret it. I value it amongst my favorite three or four DVDs -- and I've purchased almost every piano DVD/videotape on the market."
Russian genius in appearance perpetuated by Monsaingeon
Dr. Ervin Nieves | 04/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although Sokolov has gained recognition in recent years, he isn't nearly as well known as most of his present day competition, not to mention his Russian predecessors. This dvd, truly a welcome addition to the collections of a growing number of devout fans, is a must especially for its stupefying account of the Prokofiev sonata. The program is customarily as varied as Sokolov's approach to it - you'll think he's playing on different instruments shifting from Beethoven to Komitas, from Prokofiev to Chopin. If you don't like this dvd, chances are you're tone-deaf. Or perhaps just plain deaf. If you don't have it, buy it now!"
Finest classical music DVD I know?
SwissDave | Switzerland | 07/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I love movies, I do not watch music videos all that often. Frankly, if this same concert were available on CD, I would buy it in addition to this DVD, because it is one of those rare concerts in which EVERY single piece is superbly played, not just technically, but musically as well. It contains, among other, the finest rendition of Beethoven's wonderful Pastoral Sonata since, well, Artur Schnabel!? In all fairness, I should add that Bruno Monsaingeon is a master of his art, and that I do not know any live concert on video (and I have collected a few, despite my initial caveat) that catches "atmosphere" (let alone such technical aspects as exposure, lighting etc.) any better than this. So far I have never been disappointed by any of his productions, and of those, this must be one of his most technically polished (since most modern, I guess). Sound quality (16-Bit/48kHz PCM) is very impressive, by the way.
Greetings from Switzerland, David."
Absolutely a Treat
BLee | HK | 06/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
Sokolov may not be too well known to the general public, yet he ranks fairly and squarely as one of the top 2 or 3 Russian pianists who are still performing nowadays. Somehow, Sokolov performs only once every year in Russia. This time it is live in Paris which makes this DVD is so valuable.
7 years Pletnev's senior, Sokolov looks much older than his actual age. Fortunately his hands and fingers (and memory) tell us that he is still very vigorous. He is most careful in placing his fingers. His touch is on the light side even though he sounds grand and could be thunderous. His wrists are the loosiest one could expect and the tone is luminous. I don't however find him close to Michelangeli at all, but he does remind me a little bit of Richter. He also reminds me of Lupu, another great Russian trained pianist.
Sokolov played two French pieces as part of his encores which are very intriguing. It would be interesting to know how the French audience received it. And the audience was obviuosly spellbound by his Beethoven, Komitas, Prokofiev. To conclude, this is a very recent performance with excellent recording both sound and sight, giving us two hours of fabulous music.