Turning 70 in April this year, Grigory Sokolov regularly features in lists of the world’s greatest pianists. His multi-faceted performances here of Beethoven’s early Third Piano Sonata and late Op. 119 Bagatelleseloquently demonstrate why.
Even so, this two-CD plus DVD set taken from concert performances in 2019 proves to be something of a curate’s egg. While the live setting (complete with applause and occasional noises off) clearly draws from Sokolov a more concentrated and multifarious response than the clinical environs of the recording studio he has now all but abandoned, there are risks alongside the rewards.
There’s no faulting the thrilling vivacity of Beethoven’s Third Sonata (Op. 2 No 3), mercurially infused with a youthful buoyancy that both belies and benefits from Sokolov’s maturity. Phrased with knowing precision, it moves between revealing intimacy and expansive bravado with a becoming wit (in both sense of the word), the opening Allegro con brio crisp and spry, the sombre expanse of the Adagiospun out with gossamer delicacy, the Scherzobubbling and effervescent before the rippling finale is dispatched with bravura elegance.