EDINBURGH FESTIVAL 2003
Bach - Beethoven
Grigory Sokolov is the new Sviatoslav Richter.
His choice of composers Bach and
Beethoven for his piano recital on Thursday was in the tradition of his great Russian
predecessor. But the similarity did not stop there. Though he attracted vociferous fans,
he was seemingly uninterested in their applause. In each half of his long programme, the pieces were strung so closely together that there was no scope for intrusion. Nor did he rise from the keyboard to encourage it. Whenever he left the platform, he did so in darkness, the only source of light being directly above the piano.
Like Richter, he favoured playing late. This recital began at 9 pm and ended at 11:30.
The four encores were his only concession to populism but were not, you felt, included for that reason. They were there because he wanted to play them and because they fitted a position in the programme, an exhilarating flurry of French glitter moving from
Couperin to the toccata from Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin and then to a pair of Chopin mazurkas.
After the German side of the recital, this was just what was needed, and he knew it,
though the audience should really have been informed what he was up to. But you could forgive him anything for the intensity of his Bach, culminating in a rigorous and
arresting account of the great D minor Chaconne in Brahms's sensational arrangement
for left hand and for his three Beethoven sonatas, in which the heroic aspects of the
composer were characteristically avoided. The whimsical Op. 14, Nos. 1 and 2, were
performed with wit and idiosyncrasy, and the D major Pastoral, Op. 28 with breadth and keen precision of detail.