Super Sokolov

There was a great sense of expectation when the lights dimmed to almost darkness in the Strovolos Municipal Theatre on Friday night for the single concert of the great Russian pianist, Grigory Sokolov brought to Cyprus by the Pharos Trust.

He is considered to be one of the greatest pianists alive and from the first note of his Mozart Sonata in F major K280, one understands why. It is difficult to describe the perfection of his touch and the varying tonal qualities which he is able to produce. He has been described as eccentric, especially regarding his mechanical understanding of the piano, but as he carefully explained in an exclusive post-concert interview "This is a fallacy printed once about me in England - it is absolutely normal to understand your instrument. How can I play without knowing how the instrument is going to react? Each piano is vastly different, and even from one concert to another in the same venue can change. It is part of the performance result".

Both Mozart sonata, which followed almost immediately one after the other, displayed his prodigious technical gifts and mastery, a delightful sensitivity in the slow movement and vigorous final movements - all stylistically impeccable and emotionally balanced. Through his distinctive tone and dynamic levels, he is able to achieve some of the greatest pianissimos I have ever heard, imperceptibly drawing the listener closer to him. His ornamentation was faultless, with the trills and ornamentation seemingly effortless-mesmerizing in their perfection.

After a short interval, Sokolov gave a commanding performance of the 24 Preludes Op 28.The Preludes Op 28 was written during a holiday on Majorca with the great novelist George Sand whose liaison with Chopin stimulated him into writing some of his greatest music. The torment and anguish of these miniature were beautifully played by Sokolov with a hypnotic legato especially in No 4 which was played at Chopin's funeral services. The character of No 8 filled with appropriate tension and anxiety and special mention too of No 21 where Sokolov maintained palpating quaver figures over the calming cantilena. The grand design of this Op 28 was impressive with a definite shape and purpose for each prelude combined with emotional breadth, lyricism and color. The music just unfolded with naturalness and inevitability - absolutely exquisite. Following appreciative applause, Sokolov continued to delight with a stream of encores. This was an evening of flawless virtuosity and we hope that we will again be privy to such a great artist on our island.

By Saskia Constantinou
Cyprus Mail

April 2008