Media recluse he may be, but Sokolov in Salzburg is a definite must-have for all piano aficionados.


The Salzburg Recital 
Grigory Sokolov p
Deutsche Grammophon 4794342 (2CD)


Grigory Sokolov is regarded as the last representative of the Russian school. He will not record in the studio. Unlike Argerich, he has eschewed concertos and will only play solo. In the style of great artists such as Michelangeli, he plays when, where, and precisely what he wants. In this live Salzburg Festival recital from 2008, his programme consists of two Mozart Sonatas, the 24 Chopin Preludes and a group of encores. So is this enigmatic, marketing nightmare of a pianist worth your attention? Definitely.

Sokolov’s Mozart is as pristine as that of Maria João Pires, yet in the old-school manner his melodic line comes across as a string of glistening pearls. His phrases breathe naturally, and his fast passagework is evenly produced. In Chopin’s 24 Preludes Sokolov emphasises the poetry. The lovely Nos 7 and 15 (the Raindrop) are unbearably tender, while the lightning-fast No 16 is as impressive, technically, as any piano playing that you’re likely to hear.

Sokolov’s encores, meanwhile, are a mini-recital in themselves. The limpid, faded romanticism of a Scriabin Poème is superbly caught thanks to his cantabile playing. I also love the faraway feeling he brings to Chopin’s Mazurka in A Minor, as though remembering the folk dance from a great distance in time. Phillip Scott


“When you play as if you were drinking a cup of tea, that’s not music. If I don’t feel anxious before a concert, I wonder what’s wrong. That’s precisely what’s missing in the studio: I absolutely must feel it.”
– Grigory Sokolov, 2011

The Runners-Up

English Suites 
Piotr Anderszewski p
Erato 2564621939

The Art of Fugue
Angela Hewitt p
Hyperion CDA67980 (2CD)

CPE Bach
Six Organ Sonatas
Ton Koopman org
Challenge Classics CC72260

Pièces de Clavecin 
Mahan Esfahani hpsd
Hyperion CDA68071/2 (2CD)