Dimly Lit but Dazzling: Pianist Grigory Sokolov Plays Bach and Beethoven in Birmingham
Christopher Morley


Birmingham Post - 16 January 2004

Grigory Sokolov (piano)
15 January 2004 - Symphony Hall, Birmingham



There are no niceties in Grigory Sokolov's somewhat dour platform manner. Acknowledgement of his adoring public is not a priority as he focuses our attention — and his own — on his piano in a semi-darkened auditorium.

Such concentration was vitally necessary early in last night's recital, when the flickering of two of the few remaining canopy lights could easily have disrupted proceedings as distractingly as any audience noise (and yes, we did have a bleeping mobile).

In a refreshingly un-precious response to Bach, Sokolov made sense of every note within the purling filigree of the E minor Partita. Voice-leading was direct and positive, and there was even a perkily Mendelssohnian approach in certain puckish sections.

What followed was simply staggering, Brahms's transcription for left hand of Bach's famous D minor violin Chaconne drawing full, rich and simultaneously varied tones in a reading brimming with drama and pathos.

Sokolov brought a breathtaking range of articulation and phrasing, even bravely percussive, picking out melody lines amid Bach's welter of bustling figuration — and all this with one hand, fleet and commanding.

In Beethoven's early B-flat Sonata Sokolov never lost sight of the Mozartean clarity the pugnacious young man still revered. Sokolov exploited every facet of Beethoven's keyboard exploration, technique and dynamism combining to communicate the composer's cosmic vision.