Grigory Sokolov

Mozart, Rachmaninov: Concertos & "A Conversation That Never Was"

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The Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov has had some Glenn Gould-level quirks to go with, it increasingly seems, Glenn Gould-level talent. One of those quirks is a demand for control over auditorium lighting, but of more consequence has been Sokolov's total refusal to record in a studio. He has relented to the degree that he has signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon allowing the release of selected live recordings, and albums like this one have allowed those not lucky enough to cross Sokolov's concert path to experience what they've been missing. The two recordings come from different concerts, ten years apart. The Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, was recorded at Salzburg's Mozart Week in 2005, with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Trevor Pinnock. It's a beautiful recording of the work, with hypnotically songful phrasing in the outer movements especially. But it's the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30, that really stands out. Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995, with Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra doing yeoman's work in keeping up with an extraordinary performance by Sokolov in which brilliance and interiority intertwine seamlessly. Sample anywhere, really: the first movement (track 4) provides abundant evidence of what makes the reserved English audience explode in cheers at the end. This is a landmark performance in the grand Russian tradition. As a bonus you get not only a film about Sokolov by Russian producer Nadia Zhdanova, but also poems by Sokolov's late wife Inna Sokolova in the booklet. A real treat.

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