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Grigory Sokolov - Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs

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Grigory Sokolov - Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs

Grigory Sokolov - J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs
Early Recordings from 1975, 1982 and 1989
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 549 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 301 Mb | Scans included
Genre: Classical | Label: Melodiya | # MEL CD 10 02049 | Time: 02:07:54

Firma Melodiya presents concert recordings of J.S. Bach's compositions performed by Grigory Sokolov, arguably the most intellectual of all modern Russian pianists. At the age of 16, he became a winner of the 3rd International Tchaikovsky Competition and has been an active concert performer for more than forty years. There are just few musicians now who are described as "He lives for the sake of music. Only music". Sokolov's biography is not rich in external events as he is not a public figure. However, those who have heard him in concert or on records will never be able to forget his play. Sokolov prefers deeply considered "music of mind" to virtuosic lustre. He is mostly known as an interpreter of Bach's works, late Beethoven and Brahms. "He is often compared with Gould. But Sokolov has a Bach of his own. He is more of a philosopher", a critic wrote about his performance in the Literaturnaya Gazeta. But unlike the Canadian intellectual genius of pianism, Sokolov has preferred concerts to recordings. "The biggest gap is the one between the microphone and a man", the musician believes. The Goldberg Variations, Bach's most complicated cycle from the performing point of view, was recorded by Grigory Sokolov in concert in 1982. The album also includes Partita in C minor and English Suite in A minor recorded in various years.

Grigory Sokolov seems to have a mysterious aura which surrounds him. Having won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1966 at the ripe old age of 16, much was to be expected from such a talented, yet unheard of youth. Though his career has often been limited by the impositions of the Cold War era (mostly in Russia and Europe, where his concert activity has been centered), he has not disappointed: He has championed everyone from Byrd and Rameau, Bach and Beethoven, to Schumann, Froberger, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, C. P. E. Bach, and many more—and that all in concert. Though he has performed a wide variety of works, he has been less enthusiastic about appearing in the recording studio and for a significant reason, though one with which Glenn Gould would surely disagree; according to Sokolov, his rationale has mostly to do with direct and unadulterated communication: “the biggest gap is the one between the microphone and the person, while there is no such a gap between one person and a thousand people.” And that is why virtually all of the recordings this pianist has made have been captured live in performance.

Luckily many of those performances were taken from concerts which feature not only adequate sound (or as adequate as those situations would allow), but were also captured before respectful audiences, which kept their coughs to a minimum, as can be witnessed in the performance of the Goldberg Variations here. The few audience noises which were captured hardly ruined the musical moment for this listener (perhaps the worst coming in the slower and softer variations); in fact, often they made me listen ever more attentively. Whether one likes Sokolov and his interpretations is another matter. But when one takes it as a given that one is listening to a master pianist, capable not only of handling virtually any difficulty which can be thrown at him, but a serious and thoughtful musician—according to the filmmaker and violinist Bruno Monsaingeon, the “greatest living pianist”—then one is in for a real treat. And here we have the pianist performing three different Bach works from various stages in his career.

The largest work featured on this recording is the Goldberg Variations . Sokolov takes every repeat, though does not necessarily ornament as much as is common today among both harpsichordists and pianists. And though Sokolov lists Gould as one of the pianists who most inspired him, his version of this work has little in common with either the latter’s 1955 or 1981 recordings of the composition. Sokolov is a pianist through and through, summoning virtually every color that he can in maintaining the interest through his over 85-minute performance. Though there are occasional extremes of tempos used (the first variation is manic in its propulsion, the 25th just a bit on the slow side, lasting almost 10 minutes here) Sokolov chooses mostly median tempos throughout, highlighting in particular the lovely polyphonic strands which seem to weave in and out of each other—one of the beauties here is the first canon at the unison, in which the individual piano tones seem not only to ring, but to glow. His attention to matters of articulation and dynamics is equally arresting: In his hands the fourth variation not only bounces, but dances, while the 11th variation reads more like an Impressionistic piece by Debussy, with its softer dynamics, its legatissimo articulation, and its lack of drive—the pianist seems to just wade in the music’s aura. There are those moments which seem just a bit brutal—the canon at the ninth—when listened to separately, but which make perfect sense in the whole scheme of things. Perhaps that is the most important piece of advice I can give when listening to this performance: Whether one has their quibbles about this or that variation, the pianist here demonstrates a real sense of a dramatic, almost narrative-like development from beginning to end. He is not a small thinker, rather he is always concerned about the big picture, and nor should the listener be small-minded when listening to his performances.

The other Bach works are similar in the performer’s approach: The faster movements are driven and bouncy in their articulation, though his sound is never less than golden. Indeed the Capriccio to the C-Minor Partita has hardly ever been played with more urgency, direction, or seriousness—or with a more beautiful tonal sheen. The slower movements are filled with pathos, with a real sense of harmonic discovery, as in the Sarabande to the A-Minor English Suite , which in Sokolov’s hands surely is the heart of that work. Throughout this recital there are hardly any light-hearted moments: Even the simplest of textures, the sunniest of keys always have a seriousness of purpose, which work particularly well in the two minor-keyed works, though which make listening to an over two-hour recital a bit difficult.

Though the sound is now somewhat dated, the piano a bit recessed in quality, the ambience of the halls is well captured, and the performances themselves are magnificent. These are pianistic performances, so those interested in period-performance practices would best stay away. But for the rest of us who love to bask in the glory of the piano and its capabilities, there is hardly a better guide alive today, both technically and musically, to show one the possibilities of the instrument and its repertoire. Until Sokolov again makes his way to the U.S. for a few concerts, this is the closest we can come to experiencing him and his music-making. Recommended, then.

Review by Scott Noriega, FANFARE Magazine

The playing here has a rhapsodic, improvisatory quality which is utterly beguiling; the interpolated trills and flourishes, beginning immediately even in the opening aria, seem to derive from the sheer joy and exuberance Sokilov experiences in playing this timeless music. His mechanical prestidigitation is a thing of wonder yet its percussive regularity is tempered and balanced by the whimsy of the pianist's phrasing in the lyrical sections. There is enormous variety of mood and approach within this concert; the fifth variation is the epitome of insouciant Romaticism, like a rippling brook, whereas in No.8 Sokolov out-Goulds Gould for manic attack. The "Black Pearl" is by contrast almost too restrained and hesitant, courting stasis. One accusation you certainly cannot level at Sokolov is that his interpretation lacks personality

Unfortunately, the boxy, aggressive recording by Melodiya acoustic harkens back to another Russian (Soviet) style of recording, and the famed knowledgeable attentiveness of Russian audiences is belied by the inconsiderate hacks and sneezes which punctuate the playing. Such a pity that this most characterful, idiosyncratic and indeed fascinating account is marred by clangourous sound and Yahoos in the front seats.

The Partita and English Suite which complete CD2 are from other live concerts. Brilliantly executed, they are also in better sound before more appreciative and better disciplined listeners.

Review by Ralph Moore, Amazon TOP 100 REVIEWER

Grigory Sokolov - Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs



Grigory Sokolov - Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs



Tracklist:

CD1 (1:01:56)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

01. Aria (4:06)
02. Variatio 1. a 1 Clav. (1:39)
03. Variatio 2. a 1 Clav. (2:01)
04. Variatio 3. Canone all`Unisono. a 1 Clav. (3:08)
05. Variatio 4. a 1 Clav. (1:06)
06. Variatio 5. a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. (1:22)
07. Variatio 6. Canone alla Seconda. a 1 Clav. (1:40)
08. Variatio 7. a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. (2:41)
09. Variatio 8. a 2 Clav. (1:39)
10. Variatio 9. Canone alla Terza. a 1 Clav. (2:02)
11. Variatio 10. Fughetta. a 1 Clav. (2:03)
12. Variatio 11. a 2 Clav. (3:17)
13. Variatio 12. Canone alla Quarta (2:23)
14. Variatio 13. a 2 Clav. (4:05)
15. Variatio 14. a 2 Clav. (2:02)
16. Variatio 15. Canone alla Quinta. a 1 Clav. Andante (3:24)
17. Variatio 16. Ouverture. a 1 Clav. (3:31)
18. Variatio 17. a 2 Clav. (1:44)
19. Variatio 18. Canone alla Sesta.a 1 Clav. (2:04)
20. Variatio 19. a 1 Clav. (1:50)
21. Variatio 20. a 2 Clav. (1:41)
22. Variatio 21. Canone alla Settima (4:37)
23. Variatio 22. a 1 Clav. Alla breve (2:08)
24. Variatio 23. a 2 Clav. (2:02)
25. Variatio 24. Canone all`Ottava. a 1 Clav. (3:38)


CD2 (1:05:58)

Goldberg Variations

01. Variatio 25. a 2 Clav. (9:48)
02. Variatio 26. a 2 Clav. (2:02)
03. Variatio 27.Canone alla Nona. a 2 Clav. (2:07)
04. Variatio 28. a 2 Clav. (2:09)
05. Variatio 29. a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. (2:11)
06. Variatio 30. Quodlibet. a 1 Clav. (1:55)
07. Aria da Capo (4:34)

Partita No.2 in C minor, BWV 826

08. Sinfonia (4:58)
09. Allemande (3:20)
10. Courante (1:52)
11. Sarabande (4:23)
12. Rondeau (1:29)
13. Capriccio (3:34)

English Suite No.2 in A minor, BWV 807

14. Prélude (4:23)
15. Allemande (3:11)
16. Courante (2:09)
17. Sarabande (4:24)
18. Bourrée I (2:06)
19. Bourrée II - Bourrée I Da Capo (2:14)
20. Gigue (3:09)


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Official DR value: DR11

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Bitrate: 586 kbps
Codec: FLAC
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Exact Audio Copy V1.1 from 23. June 2015

EAC extraction logfile from 26. January 2017, 1:55

Grigory Sokolov / Bach - Goldberg Variations - CD2

Used drive : HL-DT-STDVDRAM GU70N Adapter: 1 ID: 0

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Read offset correction : 48
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Fill up missing offset samples with silence : Yes
Delete leading and trailing silent blocks : No
Null samples used in CRC calculations : Yes
Used interface : Native Win32 interface for Win NT & 2000

Used output format : User Defined Encoder
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Quality : High
Add ID3 tag : No
Command line compressor : C:\Program Files (x86)\Exact Audio Copy\Flac\flac.exe
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log date: 2018-04-19 04:39:49

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Analyzed: Grigory Sokolov / Bach - Goldberg Variations - CD2
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DR11 -0.38 dB -15.07 dB 2:02 02-Goldberg Variations - Variatio 26. a 2 Clav.
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Grigory Sokolov - Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2 (2014) 2CDs