The Russian piasnist, Grigory Sokolov, began studying the piano at the age of five and at seven entered the Leningrad Conservatory to study with Leah Zelikhman, where he later studied with Moisey Khalfin. He gave his first major recital in Moscow at the age of 12, and came to international attention after winning the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. Aged only 16, he won the Gold Medal on a unanimous decision by a jury headed by Emil Gilels.
In the 40 years since the this award, the world has been blessed with what one American critic recently called "a kind of pianism, musicianship and artistry one thought had vanished forever". Championed at a young age by Emil Gilels and a prominent figure on the Russian music scene since his early teens, Grigory Sokolov has gained an almost mythical status amongst music-lovers and pianophiles throughout the world. He is considered by many today to be the world's greatest living pianist. Ever since his first recital in Leningrad. He has amazed everyone again and again with the enormous breadth of his repertoire and his huge, almost physical musical strength. Using little pedal, and thus superior finger-work, he draws from the concert grand an immense variety of sounds; he has an unlimited palette of colours, a spontaneous imagination and a magical control of line. His interpretations are poetic and highly individual, and his rhythmic freedom and elasticity of phrase are perhaps unequalled among pianists today.
Those who are used to his art are most particularly attracted by the naturalness of his performing manner, which is part of his artistic credo. His playing betrays no influence from past masters, his style and approach are entirely his own, and are completely unique. Whatever Grigory Sokolov performs, be it a Pavane of William Byrd, J.S. Bach's Fantasia, Frédéric Chopin's Mazurka or a Prelude of Ravel, it suddenly sounds completely new. Even a familiar L.v. Beethoven Sonata can be rediscovered as a new piece. But all this magic has its earthly roots: Sokolov knows more about a Steinway than many piano technicians, and before he sits down to play a strange instrument, he first examines its inner mechanics, taking it to pieces. He is used to studying for many hours every day, and even on the day of a concert, practices on stage for hours, “getting to know” the piano.
Grigory Sokolov was largely unknown in the West, however, until the late 1980's, but is now rightfully regarded as a giant of the piano. Sokolov's concerts are anticipated with eagerness where ever he travels. He's not been outside of Europe for several years now, preferring to tour Europe. His programmes change twice a year, Sokolov mining the music he plays for every jewel before he feels ready to consider a new work. His concerts have been notable for a wide choice of repertoire including a foray into music of the 17th and 18th centuries by William Byrd, Johann Jakob Froberger, François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau. He is focused mainly on L.v. Beethoven, F. Chopin, W.A. Mozart, Robert Schumann and J.S. Bach in recent years. He appears to have stopped playing the blockbuster works such as Sergei Rachmaninov's 2nd and 3rd concertos, the latter making a profound impact on a 1995 London Proms audience for its coruscating virtuosity and nobility of conception. Recently he has been playing W.A. Mozart's 23rd concerto to enormous acclaim selling out weeks in advance, and in Spain earning a half-hour ovation after one performance. The London Times wrote after a recent 2004 recital: "Sokolov's fingers can do anything required of them: the clarity of articulation is total; the power of a crescendo seemingly infinite; the sheer strength at the forging point of mental observation and physical realisation breathtaking".
Grigory Sokolov is a regular guest of the most prestigious concert halls and festivals of Europe. He has performed in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Salzburg, Munich, Rome and New York, and worked with many of the world’s most prominent conductors including Myung-Whun Chung, Neeme Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Valery Gergiev, Sakari Oramo, Trevor Pinnock, Andrew Litton, Vassilly Sinajskij, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Alexander Lazarev, John Storgards, Moshe Atzmon, Walter Weller, Evgeny Svetlanov. He has worked with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Münchner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Philharmonia Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Grigory Sokolov prefers his CD's to be recorded live is not surprising, since he likes to capture the sacred moments of a real, live concert and avoid the sterile atmosphere of a studio. He has made a number of live recordings for the Melodya and Opus 111 (now Naïve Classics) labels. These include works by J.S. Bach, L.v. Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, F. Chopin, S. Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Schubert, Robert Schumann, Scriabin, and Tchaikovsky, and most recently a critically acclaimed DVD of a 2002 Paris recital recorded by the celebrated director by Bruno Monsaingeon.
Grigory Sokolov been teaching at the Conservatory since 1975. Professor at the Special Piano-playing Department. National Actor of the Russian Federation.