. He returns to our midst Thursday for a recital
at Orchestra Hall under the aegis of the Chamber Music Society of
To hear Sokolov, a 48-year-old native of St.
Petersburg, is to remember the experience, like it or not. Thereâ€™s
nothing half-way about a Sokolov interpretation. He immerses himself in
the music at hand, in the mentality of the composer, and in the process
he burns a permanent mark on the listenerâ€™s consciousness.
Surely no one who caught Sokolovâ€™s prodigious sweep
through Bach in his last Detroit recital, two seasons ago, could still
doubt the legitimacy of Bach on the modern grand piano. This was playing
that transcended the instrument to engage the essence — indeed, the
spirituality — of the music.
Then there was Sokolovâ€™s blazing traversal of
Rachmaninoffâ€™s Third Piano Concerto with the Detroit Symphony last
March. Blazing, indeed; scorched-earth might be closer to it. I didnâ€™t
have a clue what the demonic pianist actually saw in the music, but most
of the other 2,000 folks on hand unleashed a roar of approval. Sokolov
leaves no one indifferent.
What the solo Bach and the Rachmaninoff concerto
displayed in common was a pianistic technique that simply knows no
limits. And implicit in the reach from one composer to the other was the
huge embrace of Sokolovâ€™s artistic temperament.
This time he ventures off in other directions,
beginning with a generous (and exceedingly rare) selection of pieces by
the Elizabethan composer William Byrd, then leaping forward to early
Beethoven. The second half is all Ravel, including the Sonatine and the
Tombeau de Couperin.
In one respect, this recital should resemble other
Sokolov encounters: We arenâ€™t likely to forget it very soon.