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Sokolov: Chopin – 24 Preludes op.28 (APE)

Sokolov: Chopin - 24 Preludes op.28 (APE)
Sokolov: Chopin - 24 Preludes op.28 (APE)

Performer: Grigory Sokolov
Composer: Frederic Chopin
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Opus 111
Size: 146 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

24 Preludes Op.28
01. No.01 in C major Agitato
02. No.02 in A minor Lento
03. No.03 in G major Vivace
04. No.04 in E minor Largo
05. No.05 in D major Allegro molto
06. No.06 in B minor Lento assai
07. No.07 in A major Andantino
08. No.08 in F sharp minor Molto agitato
09. No.09 in E major Largo
10. No.10 in C sharp minor Allegro molto
11. No.11 in B major Vivace
12. No.12 in G sharp minor Presto
13. No.13 in F sharp major Lento
14. No.14 in E flat minor Allegro
15. No.15 in D flat major Sostenuto
16. No.16 in B flat minor Presto con fuoco
17. No.17 in A flat major Allegretto
18. No.18 in F minor Allegro molto
19. No.19 in E flat major Vivace
20. No.20 in C minor Largo
21. No.21 in B flat major Cantabile
22. No.22 in G minor Molto agitato
23. No.23 in F major Moderato
24. No.24 in D minor Allegro appassionato
Recorded: Salle Adyar, Paris, 17 June 1990

Sokolov’s Poetic Chopin, Worth More than Five Stars

Grigory Sokolov is a pianist who just recently ventured onto my radar screen with his DVD of a recital from Paris (see my and others’ reviews of it here at Amazon: Grigory Sokolov – Live in Paris). He’s been around a long time — he won the Tchaikovsky Competition almost forty years or so ago when he was only 16 — but has remained poorly known, in the US at least, by carving an unusual career path for himself; in these days when a career is boosted most often by blockbuster recordings, he has recorded little and almost all of those recordings, and certainly all of them recently, have been of LIVE performances. That’s the case here, as well, in this set of the Chopin Préludes from a 1999 recital. He’s a deeply thoughtful and serious rather than commercially driven artist, apparently.

The Préludes tend to get short shrift from concert pianists, a few of them appearing now and again as encores. But for my money they are better music than the much more commonly performed Études. They are the heart and soul of Chopin’s pianistic poetry, condensed, most of them, into only a couple of pages. Yet they cover the world in their expressivity. Most of them are not beyond the technique of moderately advanced pianists, but the expression required must come from the soul. And that, aside from technical near-perfection (this is ‘live,’ after all), is what we get from Sokolov. In some ways he is a throwback in that he plays with what some would call waywardness at times. By that is meant that he varies tempi, phrasing, dynamics from what is usual in order to express something deeply felt. For instance, in the very first Prélude in C Major, usually played like the wind by others, Sokolov plays dreamily, and with rich, warm tone. (By the way, it is said that Sokolov spends hours with the piano he will be playing on, often more or less taking it apart physically, tuning and voicing it himself. If that be the case, he is also a world-class piano technician by the sound of the piano on his recording.) And lest one think Sokolov can’t play like the wind, listen to No. 3, in G Major: such pianissimo, such lightness and accuracy, and yet such phrasing as few are capable of. And then this is followed immediately by one of the most soulful readings of the No. 4 in E Minor, slower than most play it and almost weeping in its melancholy. (I will confess that I shed a few tears on hearing it.) The same sorts of insights and expression occur throughout this traversal of all 24 préludes. I have several special favorites, but I suspect others would pick different favorites because they contain all superb music-making. I loved the heroics of No. 22 in G Minor and No. 24 in D Minor, the intensity of the thrice-familiar No. 15 in D Flat (the trudging middle section, with its tolling bell, presages Ravel’s ‘Le Gibet’ from ‘Gaspard de la nuit’– more terrifying than I’ve ever heard it), the turbulence and digital fireworks of No. 16 in B Minor (Presto con fuoco – and boy does he ever!). And so it goes.

Discovering Sokolov, whose quiet demeanor onstage belies his soulful and fiery artistic temperament, is one of my major discoveries of this past year. I intend to pursue finding everything of his I can find, and will pray that he will some day play near me so I can see/hear him in person.

Outstanding pianism, recommended heartily.

TT=41:11, a short timing but worth every penny

Scott Morrison

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