There are many Chopin: 24 Preludes to choose from. Gregory Sokolov is the artist in this particular and most of the cuts I rate as five stars. Hence my music recommendation for this week. The following review by Scott Morrison mirrors my reaction to this recording.
“Grigory Sokolov is a pianist who just recently ventured onto my radar screen with his DVD of a recital from Paris (see my and others’ reviews of it here at Amazon: Grigory Sokolov – Live in Paris). He’s been around a long time — he won the Tchaikovsky Competition almost forty years or so ago when he was only 16 — but has remained poorly known, in the US at least, by carving an unusual career path for himself; in these days when a career is boosted most often by blockbuster recordings, he has recorded little and almost all of those recordings, and certainly all of them recently, have been of LIVE performances. That’s the case here, as well, in this set of the Chopin Préludes from a 1999 recital. He’s a deeply thoughtful and serious rather than commercially driven artist, apparently.
The Préludes tend to get short shrift from concert pianists, a few of them appearing now and again as encores. But for my money they are better music than the much more commonly performed Études. They are the heart and soul of Chopin’s pianistic poetry, condensed, most of them, into only a couple of pages. Yet they cover the world in their expressivity. Most of them are not beyond the technique of moderately advanced pianists, but the expression required must come from the soul. And that, aside from technical near-perfection (this is ‘live,’ after all), is what we get from Sokolov. In some ways he is a throwback in that he plays with what some would call waywardness at times. By that is meant that he varies tempi, phrasing, dynamics from what is usual in order to express something deeply felt. For instance, in the very first Prélude in C Major, usually played like the wind by others, Sokolov plays dreamily, and with rich, warm tone. (By the way, it is said that Sokolov spends hours with the piano he will be playing on, often more or less taking it apart physically, tuning and voicing it himself. If that be the case, he is also a world-class piano technician by the sound of the piano on his recording.) And lest one think Sokolov can’t play like the wind, listen to No. 3, in G Major: such pianissimo, such lightness and accuracy, and yet such phrasing as few are capable of. And then this is followed immediately by one of the most soulful readings of the No. 4 in E Minor, slower than most play it and almost weeping in its melancholy. (I will confess that I shed a few tears on hearing it.) The same sorts of insights and expression occur throughout this traversal of all 24 préludes. I have several special favorites, but I suspect others would pick different favorites because they contain all superb music-making. I loved the heroics of No. 22 in G Minor and No. 24 in D Minor, the intensity of the thrice-familiar No. 15 in D Flat (the trudging middle section, with its tolling bell, presages Ravel’s ‘Le Gibet’ from ‘Gaspard de la nuit’– more terrifying than I’ve ever heard it), the turbulence and digital fireworks of No. 16 in B Minor (Presto con fuoco – and boy does he ever!). And so it goes.
Discovering Sokolov, whose quiet demeanor onstage belies his soulful and fiery artistic temperament, is one of my major discoveries of this past year. I intend to pursue finding everything of his I can find, and will pray that he will some day play near me so I can see/hear him in person.
Outstanding pianist, recommended heartily.”
Photograph: Just a word about the photograph. The above image was captured very early in the morning near the east entrance to the canyon. I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera with the 24-105 L lens. One hint I would pass on to photographers, particularly those using a Canon, is to set the white balance to “Cloudy” rather than use the automatic white balance. Three of us with different model Canon cameras A-B tested multiple photographs and decided we much preferred the cloudy white balance setting over the automatic. Even shooting in RAW there was a difference.
The compression algorithm reduces both the color and resolution quality so keep that in mind as you look at this picture. The original as I see it on my 27″ monitor is superior to the one you see on this blog post. The image is slightly under exposed which enhances the color of the rocks. However, at the high altitude and early morning hour, the sky was very dark blue.