World’s most elusive pianist signs for DG

The Yellow Label is sounding very pleased by its latest signing. Grigory Sokolov, 64, a byword among pianopholes, refuses to perform with orchestras and will not play on a piano that is more than five years old.

It has been 22 years since he last made a record.

DG will release a Salzburg 2008 Mozart-Chopin recital in January, followed (they hope) by more live sessions.

Press release below.

grigory sokolov

Berlin, 16 October 2014. Deutsche Grammophon today announced the exclusive signing of Grigory Sokolov, one of the world’s most enigmatic and visionary artists. The revered Russian pianist, born in Leningrad in 1950, is known for the spellbinding subtlety and endless variety of his tone, the vast depths of his musicianship and the spiritual intensity of his music-making.

Sokolov is also known for what he does not do: he no longer performs with orchestras, nor on pianos that are more than five years old. He makes no studio recordings and is reluctant to do interviews, feeling more comfortable expressing himself through his music. In an uncompromising pursuit of artistic excellence, he always demands at least double the rehearsal time expected by his peers prior to every recital – and, as if in return, gives double the amount of encores. In short, his pursuit of perfection is all-consuming.

His first album for the Yellow Label, a recital of works by Mozart and Chopin recorded LIVE at the 2008 Salzburg Festival, is set for global release in January 2015. This will be his first new album for almost 20 years – since a Schubert Sonatas disc, recorded in 1992, came to the market in 1996. The teenage Sokolov first attracted global attention after his sensational victory at the 1966 Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Sokolov’s sought-after recitals remain unique, as he performs the same programme across up to 70 concerts in a year, altering one half in January, and one in October. Encores in abundance are a speciality, and always expected from his legion of devoted concert followers.

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  • My partner & I both found his performance of the Bach/Siloti Prelude, an encore in Paris, completely spell-binding and deeply moving…

  • He recorded Beethoven 1st and 5th Concertos with Trevor Pinnock and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (Canada) in July 1996 – a mere 18 years ago – for Opus 111. I don’t know if this was ever released, though.

  • Sokolov spent two mornings practising on my 40 year old Steinway D (for a live BBC recital many years ago)…pronounced it one of the most remarkable pianos he’d encountered! I wasn’t at home so missed the pleasure of hearing a great musician practise as opposed to ‘perform’…much more interesting.

  • It’s a bit of a journey from

    “Somehow, I just don’t buy that ‘greatest’ thing when it cannot be tested in the same international conditions in which others are judged.”

    https://web.archive.org/web/20130427173942/http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/04/greatest-living-pianist-wont-play-in-britain.html

    to “a byword among pianophiles”

    I’m sure the fact that DG & Sinfini share an owner has nothing to do with this change of tune.

    • Good catch there! Was also going to mention a slightly different tone in the presentation here comparing to previous postings here about Sokolov.

  • I can’t wait for the promotional videos and photoshoots. Will they ask him to giggle like Yuja Wang, or will they dress him up like Ottensamer? How about the amounts of makeup they cake on Trifonov?

    What is he thinking? How does one go from “elusive” – “won’t play in certain countries” – to signing with a company that believes in this sort of “visibility”? The mystique that has been built up around this man is almost entirely at odds with DG’s marketing principles. Does he want money? What is the reasoning here? Can someone explain this to me?

  • This is wonderful news. I have long admired his recordings, especially a courageous and fearless Beethoven “Hammerklavier” Sonata and beautifully-moulded Chopin Etudes and Preludes and the Bach Kunst der Fuge. And some youtube pirates of his live concerts. May this be a fruitful collaboration!

  • This is wonderful news. I have admired Sokolov’s deeply-felt performances, ranging from big-hearted Bach KUNST DER FUGE, a fearless Beethoven Op.106 Sonata, deeply refined and pianistically faultless Chopin Études and Préludes, as well as other repertoire on YouTube live “pirates”. I hope this is a long and fruitful collaboration!

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