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
Bartůk and KodŠly, 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.