World-renowned pianist refuses the Cremona Music Award for being previously given to arts blogger Norman Lebrecht.

One of the world’s great pianists, Grigory Sokolov has declined the 2015 Cremona Music Award as it had been previously awarded to author, blogger and classical music gossipmonger Norman Lebrecht. In a hand written open letter directed at the award’s organisers, which was reproduced in Italian and Russian on the pianist’s website, Sokolov stated simply, “According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shameful to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht.”

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific British writer and has over the course of his career authored 12 books covering a range of areas within musicology, as well as writing extensively as both a commentator and critic, formally for The Daily Telegraph and then at The Evening Standard as the paper’s assistant editor. Recently Lebrecht’s writings have been largely published online, either on Universal Music’s Sinifi website or his own classical news and gossip site Slipped Disc which primarily features brief, bite-sized articles in Lebrecht’s uniquely personal voice.

Pianist Grigory Sokolov

Lebrecht is no stranger to controversy and his writing has often been divisive. His sometimes surprisingly unguarded opinions, unapologetically biased angles and often acerbic tone have attracted a significant number of both admirers and detractors. Lebrecht has been criticised many times for his inadequate research and for factual inaccuracies in his work, but this came to a head in 2007 when Naxos Records founder Klaus Heymann sued Lebrecht’s publishers, Penguin Books, for defamation after libellous allegations of “business malpractice” aimed at the record boss were published in Lebrecht’s book Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed fee and Penguin were forced to publically apologise to Heymann, who said of the case, “For me it’s beyond belief how any journalist in five pages can make so many factual mistakes. It’s shocking.”

The Cremona Awards’ management shared their disappointment over Sokolov’s decision not to accept the award saying, “We don’t want to discuss the personal relationship between Maestro Sokolov and Norman Lebrecht; we are just very sorry about Sokolov’s choice.” Universal Music, who last year entered into a deal to release a series of Sokolov’s live recordings, have so far not commented.