" There are times when the public becomes anxious in the hall until he finally appears. One imagines Grigory Sokolov walking up and down in the artists' room, the score in his hands, trying until the very last moment to extract the most intimate phrase from the composer's page and quite forgetting that he has to play in front of a public that is longing to hear him. His concentration is total, and sooner or later he strides in, standing upright and heading consciously for the piano. Without any smile or wide-ranging gestures, he simply arrives, sits down and starts playing, and from the very first note it is pure music".
He was born in 1950 in St. Petersburg, at a time when the unhindered development of a career was not to be thought of. His early education was at a special music school, but he soon entered the Leningrad Conservatory, and gave his first public recital at 12. In 1966 (aged 16) he won one of the most famous competitions, the Tchaikovsky, in Moscow. Tours of Europe and the USA followed, but it took at least another ten years before he could attract the attention he deserved from the West. At first he was a 'best kept secret ' for piano lovers, but soon afterwards he became an outstanding musical star.
Ever since his first big piano evening in Leningrad at the age of 12, Sokolov amazed everyone again and again with the enormous breadth of his repertoire and his huge, almost physically tangible musical strength. Using less pedal, and thus superior finger-work, he can get out of the concert grand an immense variety of sounds. He has an unlimited palette of colours, a spontaneous imagination and a magical control of line. His interpretations are poetic and highly individual, and his rhythmic freedom and elasticity of phrase are perhaps unequalled among pianists today.
Those who are used to his art are most particularly attracted by the naturalness of his performing manner, which is part of his artistic credo. His playing betrays no influence from past masters, his style and approach are entirely his own, and unique. Whatever Grigory Sokolov performs, a pavane of William Byrd, a toccata of Bach, a mazurka of Chopin or a prelude of Ravel, suddenly sounds completely new. Even a frequently-played Beethoven sonata can be rediscovered as a new piece. But all this magic has its earthly roots. Sokolov knows more about a Steinway than many piano-technicians, and before he sits down at a strange instrument, he first takes it to pieces. He is used to studying for many hours every day, and even on the day of a concert, he practices on the stage for hours, to 'get to know the piano'. The fact that he prefers his CDs to be recorded live is not surprising, since he likes to capture the sacred moments of a real, live concert and avoid the sterile atmosphere of a studio.
Sokolov is today a highly respected artist among pianists. He prefers giving solo evenings, rather than playing concertos. However, he has always been very successful also in this role, with orchestras such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Munich and New York Philharmonics, the Vienna Symphony and many others, with conductors such as Myung-Whung Chung, Valery Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Trevor Pinnock, Claus Peter Flor, Walter Weller, Tamás Vásáry, Herbert Blomstedt, Riccardo Chailly.
In the next concert season, Grigory Sokolov will perform in the most important European towns including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Zurich, Lucerne, Milan, London, Paris, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, etc.
by Helmut Mauro, Critic of the Süddeutsche Zeitung