What ever happened to … you know… that guy that won the Tchaikovsky Competition?

Yes, what ever happens to those young power house pianists who win major competitions? The Tchaikovsky Competition, the old one, now long gone, for instance. Some winners are remembered long after beause they have illustrious careers and contracts with major reording companies. Vladimir Ashkenazy is  a good example. Lately, for at least the past 2 decades, however he has been conducting more and more.  He used to be one of my favourite pianists. I saw him live playing a very convincing performace of the Emperor Concerto just a year or so after he won that competition. However, the last recital I heard him play was far from memorable except for its pedestrian qualities and my resolve never to pay to hear him again.

Now, lets talk about another Tchaikovsky competition winner, one Grigory Sokolov. I had all but forgotten about him until I was solicited by a sales person for an independent recording distributor when I was buying for a major local music store chain. The “new” label (new to me, and new to Canada at that time) was Opus 111. Amongst the list of recordings were several by Sokolov and I took the opportunity to purchase several of them. These recordings prompted me to buy tickets for a recital by him here in Vancouver.

This 1966 Tchaikovsky competition winner did not disapoint!  His playing was of the highest standard. interpertively honest in every respect. He also managed to deal with unexpected problems without so much as a blink of an eye.

During the first half of the concert it became evident that there was a problem with one of the high A flats on the instrument he  was playing. There was a persistant and annoying buzz in it. Unfortunately, the Schubert work he was performing had persistant iterations of this note. Lesser pianists would have stumbled or at least shown some loss of composure. Not Mr. Sokolov, he continued as if nothing had happened.  this  is the way things should be when something goes wrong. Its why we pay the price for the tickets. At the interval, the technician fixed the problem and the rest of the program was played without problems.

I stumbled on his recording of the Scriabin Piano Sonata number three in f sharp minor. This is one of his earlier works before he went into his truly strange period. It is one of my favorite works and Grigory Sokolov plays it with aplomb. It is definitely wroth listening to. His performance of the Prokofiev Piano Sonata Number Eight is equally convincing. He ends his recording with the Rachmaninov Prelude in D major opus 23 number 4. This is not one of the better known preludes,  but it should be. It is as lyrically exquisite as anyihing Rachmaninoff ever wrote. You can find this recording on Opus 111 40-9104

a.k.a. the record jacket historian


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