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Grigory Sokolov, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Trevor Pinnock
DG 4797015 (2CD & DVD)
DG continues to releases live recordings of Grigory Sokolov. His mastery is unquestionable but he is famously enigmatic. He refuses all interviews, will not record in a studio, and as of 2005 stopped performing with orchestras. The Mozart concerto comes from January of that year. Was it the straw that broke the pianist’s back?
The legend of the reclusive artist is rejected by many but not by DG, who enclose a documentary entitled Grigory Sokolov: A Conversation That Never Was. In it, friends and colleagues praise Sokolov extravagantly, although he himself is absent. One viewing suffices.
Despite Pinnock at the helm, the Mozart is given an old-school reading. Poetry abounds in the first movement, while the Adagio builds to a climax of cinematic proportions. Sokolov expends more energy in the finale than other pianists do in Brahms. He is more suited to the Rachmaninov, where his innate mastery of the music’s ebb and flow is on the highest level.
As in his solo recitals he is fond of extremes. He thunders through the cadenza of the first movement (a passage where I feel less is usually more), but the section immediately following is beautifully delicate. As a live recording (from 1995), this lacks the excitement of Argerich’s white hot rendition. If anything, the pianist he most recalls in this work is his idol Emil Gilels, although Sokolov is more willful regarding tempos. Sound quality is excellent.