Grigroy Sokolov: Live in Paris

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Chopin,F Couperin,Prokofiev,Vardapet
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Vardapet, Prokofiev, Chopin, F Couperin
PERFORMER: Grigory Sokolov (piano)


Pursuing the career of a high-profile concert pianist almost inevitably involves a life of relative solitude and complete dedication in order to master the demands of the instrument and its repertoire.

Perhaps equally obvious is that such a life can easily foster personal eccentricities, including a refusal to compromise with some of the normal conventions of concert-giving. Both Grigory Sokolov and Piotr Anderszweski seem to fall into this pattern, albeit in different ways. Yet to capture the essence of their extraordinary art on DVD remains something of a challenge.

For his film on Sokolov, French director Bruno Monsaingeon managed to secure permission from the reclusive pianist to video a recital he gave at the Champs-Élysées in Paris in November 2002. As with the late Sviatoslav Richter, Sokolov prefers to give his performances in almost complete darkness, thus ensuring that audiences focus all their attention on the music. To what extent this ploy works as effectively on DVD as in the concert hall still remains an open question, especially as the visual element could easily be deemed monotonous.

Yet Monsaingeon has resisted the obvious temptation to be too interventionist. Limiting the number of different angles at which we survey Sokolov’s phenomenal pianism to a bare minimum certainly enables the viewer to be hypnotically drawn into the performances which in themselves are pretty remarkable. Erik Levi

In the first half of the recital, an unbroken sequence of three Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Sokolov manages to evoke an amazing range of colours from his instrument, although I would take issue with his unduly leisurely approach to the outer movements of the Pastoral Sonata. But the DVD is worth owning for the sake of a titanic account of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata.

Monsaingeon’s film about Piotr Anderszewski is far more visually engaging. A portrayal of the performer’s day-to-day existence as he travels with his own piano on board a train that takes us through Europe, it may at first sight seem rather self-regarding. Yet Anderszewski’s personal reflections on the music that means the most to him prove to be absolutely fascinating, and one is drawn irresistibly to his restless way of looking at the world.


There are some wonderful performances too – Szymanowski with his violinist sister Dorota, excerpts from a rehearsal of the Brahms D minor Piano Concerto with Gustavo Dudamel and the Philharmonia, as well as Bach, Chopin and Mozart, the composer with whom Anderszewski most closely identifies.