Sokolov in Todi……..”…..the greatest pianist alive or dead?”

Sokolov tonight was like a light shining brightly with playing of such clarity and beauty that it illuminated the well known Sonata in A K. 331 and Rondo in A minor K. 511 as it did the little known Prelude and Fugue in C K.394.
They were in almost complete darkness and without any break or applause between the three works of Mozart that opened this recital.
It was in  the jewel of a theatre in the little hillside town of Todi in the Umbrian hills that it shares with nearby Spoleto.
There was a complete concentration and silence that allowed these works to be heard in all their naked purity.
The fearless almost Beethovenian sounds in the opening Prelude and the absolute clarity of the part playing in the fugue were contrasted with the naive purity of the opening theme and variations of the Sonata.
Each variation sparkled like perfect jewels.
Like the rays of light in a multicoloured prism.
Playing of such purity but of such subtle contrast too.
Seemingly without pedal as it was played with such care and mastery we were never aware of the technical feats at the service of the music.
The Rondo alla turca was played with such delicacy and supreme sense of style that allowed this almost pastoral sonata to seemingly hover above the keys.
The delicacy and intricate weavings of the Rondo in A minor K. 511 were one of the most wondrous things I have heard since Maestro Sokolov’s Haydn Sonatas last year.
The difference between Pletnev and Sokolov was like chalk from cheese.
The intimacy that Pletnev was trying to achieve in Florence on Saturday was achieved tonight in Todi because Sokolov was interested only in purveying the composers wishes without any evident invasion of his own personality.
But my God here was one of the great musical personalities of our time.
The 14 pieces of Bunte Blatter op 99 by Schumann where time stood still as the sumptuous sounds filled the air with poetry,passion,intimate confessions and joyous celebration.
The magic of the melody of the fourth , used by Brahms for his variations op 9 , was something to cherish.
As was the disperation and passion with which he plunged into the Praludium.
Complete darkness did not allow me to make detailed notes but what does that matter when we were treated to such a range of moods.
We were assaulted and then seduced,titivated and then mourned,thrilled and then reduced to tears.
Coloured leaves indeed….and what colours in this magicians hands.
I was in doubt to undertake the two hour car journey from Rome for this concert.
“He can bunte his blatter without me” I told friends………I had heard Trifonov play them all in the Barbican last year and just a few weeks ago heard two from Volodos as a prelude to the Humoresque and that was quite enough for a lifetime.
Two great pianists of course……..
…………………………but then there is Sokolov!
I will be the first in line to cheer the same programme in Rome on the 30th March or Eindhoven on the 13th.
It was the artistic secretary of S.Cecilia that when I had questioned the programme.
He had told me yes it was  the complete Bunte Blatter….40 minutes and an absolute masterpiece.
How right he was!
An intimate atmosphere was created in this theatre of 300 seats.He can create  the same atmosphere in a hall of 3000 too such is the spell he can spin.
Generous as always or is it something more like a rite, where at the end one can celebrate and enjoy together the absolute gems he was throwing our way.
Two Chopin Mazukas of such perfection ……not sterile perfection but human and full of refined sentiment.
The trills in the B flat mazurka were something to cherish for a lifetime as they spun and unwound each in a different unobtrusive way.
Two of his famous pieces by Couperin and Rameau. In the ‘Rappel des oiseaux’ we could see the birds hovering around him like St Francis just a stones throw from here.
The absolute perfection was once again shared with his doting public.
The Rachmaninov Prelude in G sharp minor op 32 was of a hauntimg beauty that there are no words to describe.
But it was the massive opening and closing chords of Chopins C minor Prelude that had us on the edge of our seats as it got quieter and quieter with a superhuman control of sound.
It sent us into the cool evening air astonished,moved and seduced by the “…..greatest pianist alive or dead”

Of course a pianist needs a perfect instrument to be able to search for such perfection and it was another magician

Mauro Buccitti  who was at his side tonight with a truly magnificent Steinway from our old friend of over 50years Alfonsi in Rome.
Chapeau is just not enough!
Five encores later……..
Linda Alberti niece of that great aesthete and much missed  actress from nearby Bevagna: Elsa de’ Giorgi.Never forgotten even by Adelaide married to Lindas son Fabio  and both artist working in the beautiful hillside town of Bevagna with Montefalco looking on enticingly from above.
Awaiting the legendary Sokolov in beautiful Todi.I decided I really could not miss Bunte Blatter that I have never liked played as a whole but he may just be the one that can convince like he did with Haydn last year

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