It has been a very strange time over the last few months for everyone, but especially for performers. All concerts have been cancelled and it has felt at times as if I have lost my whole identity. However, there have been some positives – finally I have been able to catch up on all the books, CDs and films that I had set aside for a day when I have a bit more time, and this day – many of them, in fact – has come.
Pianist Grigorij Sokolov
I am a huge fan of the Russian pianist Grigorij Sokolov. It would be incredible to listen to him play in London, but he no longer plays in the UK any more because of our visa requirements for artists.
Sokolov came to fame in Russia in 1966 when he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at just 16. He wasn’t the audience’s favourite – my mum was at the final and remembers booing the jury when the results were announced. The audience’s preferred winner was Misha Dichter, an American pianist who took second place.
Sokolov’s piano playing is on a different level. I have a lot of his recordings and can highly recommend listening to his video recordings on YouTube.
The other fascinating books I am reading at the moment are about Prokofiev. I love his music dearly, As the artistic director of the Prokofiev Festival in London, it is important for me to know as much about him as I can. Also I have my own disc of Prokofiev’s works arranged for violin and piano coming out soon so I am preparing a talk for the launch event in late July.
Although I am re-visiting his Diaries in Russian (my suitcases almost always weigh in at the hold luggage limit due to all of the Russian books I bring back to the UK after visits to Russia), all of the 3 volumes of his diaries were translated into in English by Anthony Philipps in 2012. I haven’t yet bought the English version but I am very curious to read the translation as well.
The other book is Prokofiev: A Biography by the wonderful Head of ArtsDesk David Nice.
Alec Cobbe and Christopher Nobbs: Three Hundred Years of Composers’ Instruments
In addition, I am reading an absolutely extraordinary book about the Cobbe Collection: Three Hundred Years of Composers’ Instruments. It was given to me after my recent livestream performance at the collection in June. It is a remarkable account of the largest collection of instruments previously owned by composers in the world.
As for films, I am rather reluctant to start any box sets as I suffer from terrible binge-watching. In the current times with no clear agenda and no pressure to prepare for concerts, I am afraid that I’d end up watching TV for the whole day!
Instead I have enjoyed several old films by Fellini with the absolutely gorgeous Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
I also just watched a great BBC Documentary from 2011 on Mstislav Rostropovich: The Genius of the Cello. I was among the last of his scholars in Russia and will never forget his lessons. The energy, ideas and the enthusiasm that came from him were unique and I have never experienced anything like it since. He was a musical legend and I often wonder what he would do in the current situation for the arts. I am sure he would be a huge source of positivity, drive and power through these difficult times!
Yulia Chaplina has teamed up with Coach House Pianos to host regular Piano Bootcamp events on The Pianist Platform. More details here.