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Grigory Sokolov

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Sokolov at 17 years of age (1967)

Grigory Lipmanovich Sokolov (Russian: Григо́рий Ли́пманович Соколо́в; born April 18, 1950) is a Russian[1] pianist with Spanish citizenship.[2] He is among the most esteemed of living pianists,[3][4][5] his repertoire spanning composers from the Baroque period such as Bach, Couperin or Rameau up to Schoenberg and Arapov. He regularly tours Europe (excluding the UK) and resides in Italy.


Sokolov was born in Leningrad (Russian SSR, Soviet Union, now Saint Petersburg)[6] to Jewish father Lipman Girshevich Sokolov and Russian mother Galina Nikolayevna Zelenetskaya. He began studying the piano at the age of five and entered the Leningrad Conservatory's special school for children at the age of seven to study with Leah Zelikhman.[7] After graduating from the children's school, he continued studying at the Conservatory with Moisey Khalfin.[8][9] At 12, he gave his first major recital in Moscow, in a concert of works by Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy and Shostakovich at the Philharmonic Society.[10] At age 16, he came to international attention when he was awarded the gold medal in the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, making him the youngest ever winner.[11][12] It seems this may have been a surprising result: "16-year old Grisha Sokolov, who finally became the winner of that competition, was not taken seriously by anyone at that time."[13]

"He possesses brilliant finger and chord technique, he easily wields the piano, so easily that he performs the prestissimo of the last movement of the Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2 with truly refined lightness. It was a startling performance. Doubtless we are going to hear much more about this young talented pianist..."[14]

Despite his success at the Tchaikovsky Competition in his youth, Sokolov's international career only began to develop towards the end of the 1980s. It has been speculated[15] that this was because of his not defecting and the limited travelling allowed under the Soviet regime, but this is refuted by the fact that Sokolov gave U.S. tours in 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1979,[16] as well as numerous recitals elsewhere in the world, eg Finland and Japan. "Sokolov's life as a touring soloist is quite overcrowded. He tours a great deal in both his motherland and abroad."[16] The 1980s seem to have posed something of a stumbling block to Sokolov's career in the U.S. "In the beginning, I played a lot of single concerts in America, in 1969, '71 and, I think, 1975. After that there was a break in relationships between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — they were disconnected by the Afghanistan war. A scheduled tour in the U.S. was cancelled in 1980. Then all cultural agreements between the two countries were cancelled."[17][18] In addition, during the breakup of the former Soviet Union, Sokolov played no concerts outside Russia.

Grigory Sokolov during a concert in Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg [de] (2015)

He is now a well-known figure in concert halls around Europe, but much less so in the U.S.[19] Sokolov has released relatively few recordings to date, and released none for the 20 years between 1995[19] and 2015. But in 2014 he signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon to release recordings of some of his live performances,[20] and in 2015 he released a 2-CD live Salzburg recital featuring two sonatas by Mozart, Chopin's cycle of 24 Preludes, and encore pieces by Scriabin, Chopin, Rameau and Bach.

In August 2022, he was granted Spanish nationality.[2]

Public statements[edit]

In March 2009, Sokolov cancelled a planned concert in London because of British visa requirements demanding that all non-E.U. workers provide fingerprints and eye prints with every visa application (he also cancelled his 2008 concert on seemingly similar grounds). Sokolov protested that such requirements had echoes of Soviet oppression.[21]

After British music commentator Norman Lebrecht received the Cremona Music Award 2014, Sokolov, upon learning of his being awarded the Cremona Music Award 2015, refused to accept the honour, making this statement on his website: "According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht."[22] Sokolov's statement appeared to refer to personal remarks Lebrecht had made about Sokolov's family.[23]


Sokolov cited the following pianists as having inspired him in his years of studies: "Of those whom I heard on the stage I'd like to name first of all Emil Gilels. Judging by the records, it was Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Glenn Gould, Solomon [and] Lipatti. As to aesthetics, I feel most close to Anton Rubinstein."[24]


In 2006, Sokolov explained his decision to give fewer concerto performances. Among the adverse factors he cited were inadequate rehearsal time and that one can rarely pair with a conductor whose approach fits his own. He also said that by repeating his solo programs in many venues over time, he deepens his interpretations, whereas a concerto performance starts over at the first rehearsal in each engagement.[25]

The 14 CDs (2 of Bach, 2 of Beethoven, 2 of Schubert, 2 of Chopin, 1 of Brahms, and 1 of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev—all recorded by the label Opus 111, plus a 2-CD 2008 recital set released in 2015 and another 2-CD set taken from recitals in 2013 and released in 2016, both issued by DG on CD and LP) and 1 DVD (a live recital in Paris) that are currently (2015) available for Sokolov constitute a snapshot of the repertoire that Sokolov has so far performed. There is now a second (DG) DVD, of a concert (including the 'Hammerklavier' Sonata) recorded in the Berlin Philharmonie on June 5, 2013. This DVD was directed by Bruno Monsaingeon.



  1. ^ Michael Church (28 February 1997). "Game, set and match". The Independent. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b "El Gobierno concede la nacionalidad española al pianista ruso Grigory Sokolov". Europa Press. 2022-08-03. Retrieved 2022-08-03.
  3. ^ "The 10 Greatest Classical Pianists of All Time". 23 February 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  4. ^ "The greatest living pianist | The Spectator". The Spectator. 2011-03-26. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  5. ^ "Does Grigory Sokolov, 'The Greatest Living Pianist,' Speak To A Higher Power?". www.wbur.org. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  6. ^ "Grigory Sokolov mit Bach, Brahms und Schumann in der Berliner Philharmonie". Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  7. ^ Deutsche Grammophon 2022.
  8. ^ Morrison 2001.
  9. ^ "GRIGORY SOKOLOV". NAXOS. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  10. ^ Zilberquit 1983, p. 331.
  11. ^ "Grigory Sokolov in recital". Medici TV.
  12. ^ "Competition History". Medici TV. 2019.
  13. ^ Vladimir Krainev quoted in Russia's Great Modern Pianists, Mark Zilberquit 1983
  14. ^ Zilberquit 1983, p. 323.
  15. ^ International Piano September/October 2006
  16. ^ a b Zilberquit 1983, p. 325.
  17. ^ Sokolov quoted in "Pianist left out by the Cold War. U.S.- Russian difficulties kept Grigory Sokolov a mystery to all but those in conservatories." Karen Schaefer, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 4 March 1996
  18. ^ "The life and recordings of legendary pianist Grigory Sokolov". ABC Classic. 2020-04-16. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  19. ^ a b Michael Kimmelman (2008-04-17). "When Fame Can't Cross the Atlantic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  20. ^ "Grigory Sokolov signs exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon". Gramophone. No. December 2014.
  21. ^ Brown, Ismene (2009-03-04). "Grigory Sokolov's visa woes". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  22. ^ Martin Bernheimer (2015-09-28). "Grigory Sokolov refuses award because it has previously been won by Norman Lebrecht". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  23. ^ "Orpheus Complex: Lebrecht, Sokolov…and Sokolov's wife". 30 September 2015.
  24. ^ Zilberquit 1983, p. 330.
  25. ^ Duchen 2006, p. 17.


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