Grigory Sokolov is a remarkable musician. His
sheer force of personality and the integrity of his interpretations
go hand-in-hand with playing of tremendous ardour to leave one breathless
The programme reflected Sokolovís wide repertoire.
He plays with the lights firmly down so that attention is focussed purely
on the musical expression: no reading of the programme notes while the
concert is in progress here. This certainly served to lend an intimacy
to his Haydn. The long first half was taken up by three sonatas by this
composer: F, HobXVI:23; D, HobXVI:27; E minor, HobXVI:34. It was an
arrangement that worked well, the restrained F major working its way
to the grander, almost Romantic E minor via the quirky (and sometimes
quasi-orchestral) D major.
Sokolov was able to bring the audience in to Haydnís
world immediately. If one was in awe at his superbly even touch in the
first sonata, it was wit that was to the fore in the second. The presto
first movement of the E minor was determined in approach. Throughout
these Sonatas, Sokolov did not let the momentum of concentration slip
for a moment, an impression enhanced by his tendency to hunch over the
keyboard; in fact, the only threat to this concentration came from that
scourge of modern society, the unmuted mobile telephone.
Sokolovís presentation of Six Dances (1902-6) by Gomidas
Vartabad Komitas (1869-1935) was typical of this pianistís searching
approach to repertoire. The place of origin of each piece is stated
in the title (Yerevan, Vagarshapa, two from Shusha and two from Ezrum).
Analogous in intent to the Ďcompositionalí ethno-musicology of Bartók
and Kodály, Sokolov brought out the improvisational and nostalgic
elements of these fascinating pieces. The dances were, it turned out,
the ideal foil to Prokofievís explosive Seventh Sonata (in B flat, Op.
83). Designed to be the climax of the evening, this was a stunning account,
volcanic in the energy it unleashed: the spiky opening led immediately
to forceful, unremitting pounding. The rapt, bittersweet Andante set
off the dark colours of the finale (in 7/8 time), with its frightening
layered aggregates and rhythmic inevitability.
A succession of encores followed: Couperinís Le Tic-Toc
Choc ou les Maillo-fins
Ravelís Toccata, Chopinís Mazurka op.50 no.3 and Chopinís Mazurka Op.63
No.3. As with the late and much-lamented Jorge Bolet,
Sokolov gave the impression he just did not want to stop.