Deutsche Grammophon already has in its catalogue one of the great piano recordings: Sokolov live at Salzburg, Mozart & Chopin (review-link below). Now, this wonderful Russian artist (born in 1950) is heard in a 2019 programme, pieced together from June appearances in Zaragoza and Wuppertal, and in the Church of San Bernardo in Rabbi (Italy) two months later, but forget editing and any sort of post-production (other than stitching together disparate elements, as here): Sokolov doesn’t entertain either. His choices of music this time are Beethoven & Brahms: the former’s C-major Sonata (Opus 2/3) and the Opus 119 set of Bagatelles, whereas Brahms is represented by his final two collections of Piano Pieces, Opuses 118 & 119.
The Sonata is of a largesse and variety typical of this pianist’s magnetism, drawing the listener in from the very first second (this despite the piano being positioned just a little distantly, although it does get somewhat closer) with his gentle touch, a wide dynamic range and an appropriate gruffness when required; tempos and phrasings are judged to a nicety: yours-truly was spellbound. (Noisy Zaragoza audience, though.) With Sokolov the Eleven Bagatelles, nominally merry ditties, are played (to a less-intrusive Wuppertal gathering) as an unbroken sequence and belie their titular identity, for each is examined for their full worth, albeit as no more invested by Beethoven himself; similarly the (in total) ten Brahms Pieces, essayed straight through, the slower ones finding the composer emotionally naked – to devastating effect, although Sokolov’s rather humourless C-major Intermezzo (Opus 119/3), when set aside Curzon and Hough, takes some getting used to.
There follow seven encores – Sokolov quite often gives one-and-a-half recitals – here ranging from a Schubert Impromptu to a Debussy Prélude via Rameau and Rachmaninov: half-an-hour of extras.
This set – DG 483 6570 (2 CDs) – also includes a DVD, filmed in Turin on 31 May 2017. Mozart, K545 & K475/K457, together with Beethoven, Opuses 90 & 111, plus six encores. Not watched it yet, but keen to do so.