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This is a release of Grigory Sokolov’s performance at the 2008 Salzburg Festival (the same year he failed to come to London’s Barbican because of new passport rules). Recitals by Sokolov are to be cherished, as this release so conclusively shows. It was quite a decision to put not just two Mozart Sonatas together for the first panel of the programme, but two Mozart Sonatas in the same key (F major). Yet Sokolov makes it work beautifully – immediately it is apparent that one is in the presence of greatness. Sokolov’s playing implies no other avenue of interpretation is conceivable; in addition, his accuracy is stunning. The polyphonic aspect of K 332 is beautifully rendered, while its first movement seems to have a supernatural amount of space in which to breathe, but without any sense of undue lingering. The slow movement of this Sonata is a proper Adagio, but the beauty of Sokolov’s tone (so perfectly caught by the recording), coupled with his limpid, bitter-sweet phrasing, makes this a transcendental experience; the brightness of the finale enables perfect balance. Anyone who doubts the greatness of Mozart’s sonata output needs to hear these performances.

Maurizio Pollini gave a Royal Festival Hall performance of the Chopin Preludes earlier this year. It is fascinating to compare the two approaches: Pollini is intensely intellectual, almost deconstructionist, whereas Sokolov finds the perfect balance between emotion and intellect. Sokolov’s shadings of phrase are quite remarkable (try No 4, the E minor), his technique impeccable, his grasp of texture and detail second to none (the ravishing No 23 in F major). The encores are typically eclectic: Scriabin and Chopin meet Rameau (Les Sauvages) and Bach. A remarkable release.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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