Grigory Sokolov

Wigmore Hall, London

Andrew Clements
Saturday June 9, 2007
Guardian Unlimited



A recital by Grigory Sokolov is like a vision of a lost age of Russian pianism. There is a wonderful ease about his playing, a security founded on a technique that seems utterly dependable, and a sense that every interpretation is founded upon total familiarity. This is an artist who knows his repertory inside out, yet still manages to conjure a sense of discovery in his performances, as if he were inviting the audience to listen to the music as if it were a new work.

What you get in the performances is not necessarily to everyone's taste, though. Sokolov launched into Schubert's C minor Sonata D958 with tremendous gusto, driving his way through the opening theme, but then slowed down and fussed with the second subject group. There was more cosmetic rubato in the slow movement but what emerged was still a wonderfully coherent sense of the whole sonata, spun from an opalescent thread of tone, with every element perfectly in scale; even when you did not know what was coming next, you sensed it would be totally integrated.

But the real revelations came in a Scriabin sequence, which was played chronologically, with scarcely a break between the items. The centres of gravity were two of the sonatas, the Third and the Tenth - the earlier of them still assimilating the romanticism of Chopin, and full of pianistic efflorescence to which Sokolov gave a fluid, airy lightness; the later one perhaps the greatest, most intense of Scriabin's late works. If Sokolov's account of the Tenth could not quite replicate the demonic intensity of Vladimir Horowitz's definitive recording, it was still hugely impressive on its own terms, technically outstanding and holding the structure together with total confidence, just as he drove the even later and more obsessive poem Vers La Flamme to a cataclysmic climax.