Grigory Sokolov

Grigory Sokolov at 17 years of age (1967)

Grigory Lipmanovich Sokolov (Russian: Григо́рий Ли́пманович Соколо́в; born April 18, 1950) is a Russian pianist naturalized Spanish. He is among the most esteemed of living pianists, his repertoire spanning composers from the Baroque period such as Bach, Couperin or Rameau up to Schoenberg and Arapov. He regularly tours Europe (excluding the UK) and resides in Italy.


Sokolov was born in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, to Jewish father Lipman Girshevich Sokolov and Russian mother Galina Nikolayevna Zelenetskaya. He began studying the piano at the age of five and entered the Leningrad Conservatory's special school for children at the age of seven to study with Leah Zelikhman. After graduating from the children's school, he continued studying at the Conservatory with Moisey Khalfin. At 12, he gave his first major recital in Moscow, in a concert of works by Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy and Shostakovich at the Philharmonic Society. At age 16, he came to international attention when he was awarded the gold medal in the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, making him the youngest ever winner. It seems this may have been a surprising result: "16-year old Grisha Sokolov, who finally became the winner of that competition, was not taken seriously by anyone at that time."

"He possesses brilliant finger and chord technique, he easily wields the piano, so easily that he performs the prestissimo of the last movement of the Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2 with truly refined lightness. It was a startling performance. Doubtless we are going to hear much more about this young talented pianist..."

Despite his Tchaikovsky Competition success, Sokolov's international career began to develop only towards the end of the 1980s. Some have speculated that his not defecting and the limited travelling allowed under the Soviet regime were to blame. This is contradicted by the fact that Sokolov gave U.S. tours in 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1979,[citation needed] as well as numerous recitals elsewhere in the world such as Finland and Japan. "Sokolov's life as a touring soloist is quite overcrowded. He tours a great deal in both his motherland and abroad."

The 1980s seem to have posed something of a stumbling block to Sokolov's career in the U.S. "In the beginning, I played a lot of single concerts in America, in 1969, '71 and, I think, 1975. After that there was a break in relationships between the U.S. and the Soviet Union—they were disconnected by the Afghanistan war. A scheduled tour in the U.S. was cancelled in 1980. Then all cultural agreements between the two countries were cancelled."

Grigory Sokolov during a concert in Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg [de] (2015)

In addition, during the breakup of the former Soviet Union, Sokolov played no concerts outside Russia.

He is now a well-known figure in concert halls around Europe, but much less so in the U.S. Sokolov has released relatively few recordings to date, and released none for the 20 years between 1995 and 2015. But in 2014 he signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon to release recordings of some of his live performances, and in 2015 he released a 2-CD live Salzburg recital featuring two sonatas by Mozart, Chopin's cycle of 24 Preludes, and encore pieces by Scriabin, Chopin, Rameau and Bach.

In August 2022, the Spanish government granted him Spanish nationality.

Public statements

In March 2009, Sokolov cancelled a planned concert in London because of British visa requirements demanding that all non-E.U. workers provide fingerprints and eye prints with every visa application (he also cancelled his 2008 concert on seemingly similar grounds). Sokolov protested that such requirements had echoes of Soviet oppression.

After British music critic Norman Lebrecht received the Cremona Music Award 2014, Sokolov, upon learning of his being awarded the Cremona Music Award 2015, refused to accept the honour, making this statement on his website: "According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht." Sokolov's statement appeared to refer to personal remarks Lebrecht had made about Sokolov's family.


Sokolov cited the following pianists as having inspired him in his years of studies: "Of those whom I heard on the stage I'd like to name first of all Emil Gilels. Judging by the records, it was Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Glenn Gould, Solomon [and] Lipatti. As to aesthetics, I feel most close to Anton Rubinstein."


Sokolov has significantly reduced the number of his concerto performances, for the following reason:

"It's very simple. For piano is written an ocean of music, and during your lifetime you are not able to play even a small part of it. Then with orchestra it's not easy to find enough time to rehearse, or to find an orchestra which is interested in the final product and not looking at their watch. It's also not easy with conductors, because you must find the combination of a very good musician who has this special talent to follow and to understand the music in the same way as you. It's very seldom, I must say! And then maybe the worst: if you play a solo piece several times over several days you will develop, going to another level with it, but with a concerto you play this piece more and more, but with each orchestra and conductor you must start again at the first rehearsal. So, if you spend so much energy that you could use much more effectively for recitals, why do you do it? I very much like the fact that everything I make depends only on me. With a hundred people it's almost impossible. You have not the responsibility."

The 14 CDs (2 of Bach, 2 of Beethoven, 2 of Schubert, 2 of Chopin, 1 of Brahms, and 1 of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev—all recorded by the label Opus 111, plus a 2-CD 2008 recital set released in 2015 and another 2-CD set taken from recitals in 2013 and released in 2016, both issued by DG on CD and LP) and 1 DVD (a live recital in Paris) that are currently (2015) available for Sokolov constitute a snapshot of the repertoire that Sokolov has so far performed. There is now a second (DG) DVD, of a concert (including the 'Hammerklavier' Sonata) recorded in the Berlin Philharmonie on June 5, 2013. This DVD was directed by Bruno Monsaingeon. A more extensive repertoire listing is as follows:[citation needed]

  • Arapov
    • Concerto for violin, piano and percussion
    • Etude-Scherzo
    • Sonatas No. 1, 2 & 5
  • Bach
    • The Art of Fugue
    • English Suite No.2
    • Fantasy & Fugue in A minor, BWV 904
    • French Suite No.3
    • Goldberg Variations
    • Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971
    • Overture in the French Style, BWV 831
    • Partitas Nos. 1, 2, 4 & 6
    • Sonata "Hortus Musicus" by Johann Adam Reincken BWV965
    • Toccata in E minor, BWV 914
    • Well-Tempered Clavier Book I
    • Well-Tempered Clavier Book II
Bach-Brahms: Chaconne for the left-hand BWV1004
Bach-Busoni: "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesus Christ" BWV639
Bach-Busoni: "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein" BWV734
Bach-Siloti: Prelude in B minor
  • Beethoven
  • Brahms
    • Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
    • Sonata No.1 in C major, Op.1
    • Sonata No.3 in F minor, Op.5
    • 4 Ballades Op.10
    • Variations on a Theme by Handel Op. 24
    • 2 Rhapsodies Op.79
    • 7 Fantasies Op.116
    • 3 Intermezzi Op.117
    • 6 Klavierstücke Op.118
    • 4 Klavierstücke Op.119
  • Byrd
    • Pavan & Galliard MB52
    • Alman MB11
    • Prelude MB12
    • Clarifica me Pater (II) MB48
    • Qui Passe MB19
    • March before the Battle MB93
    • Battle MB94
    • Galliard for Victory MB95
  • Carvalho-Sokolov Toccata and Andante in G
  • Chopin
    • Ballade No.4 in F minor, Op.52
    • Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
    • Etude Op.10 No.8
    • Etudes Op.25
    • Fantasie-Impromptu Op.66
    • Fantasy Op.49
    • Impromptus Op.29, Op.36 & Op.51
    • Mazurkas Op.7 No.2, Op.17 No.4, Op.30 Nos. 1–4, Op.33 No.4, Op.50 Nos. 1–3, Op.63 Nos. 1–3, Op.67 No.2, Op.68 Nos. 2–4, Op.posth
    • Nocturnes Op.15 No.1, Op.27 No.1, Op.32 Nos. 1 & 2, Op.48 Nos. 1 & 2, Op.62 Nos. 1 & 2, Op.72, Op. posth
    • Polonaise-Fantasie Op.61
    • Polonaises Op.26 No. 1 & 2, Op.40 No.2, Op.44, Op.53, Op. posth.
    • Preludes Op.28
    • Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3
    • Waltz No.17 Op.posth
  • Couperin
    • Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou les Maillotins
    • Pièces de clavecin Book III Ordre XIII & Ordre XVIII
  • Debussy
    • Des pas sur la neige (from Preludes, Book I, No.6)
    • Canope (from Preludes, Book II, No.10)
  • Franck
  • Froberger
    • Toccata FbWV101
    • Canzon FbWV301
    • Fantasia FbWV201
    • Ricercar FbWV411
    • Capriccio FbWV508
    • Partita FbWV610
  • Griboyedov
    • Waltz No.2 in E minor
  • Haydn
    • Piano Sonatas Hob XVI: 23, 32, 34, 36, 37 & 44
  • Komitas
    • Six Dances
  • Liszt
  • Mozart
    • Concertos Nos. 21, 23 & 24
    • Prelude (Fantasie) and Fugue K.394
    • Rondo K.511
    • Sonatas K.280, K.310, K.331, K.332, K.457, & K.545
    • Fantasy K.475
  • Prokofiev
  • Rachmaninov
    • Concertos Nos. 2 & 3
    • Preludes Op.2 No.3, Op.23, Op.32 No.5 & No.12
  • Rameau
    • Suite in D de Pièces de clavecin (1724) — in his repertory in 2012
    • Suite in G/g de Pièces de clavecin (1726) — in his repertory before 2012
    • "Le rappel des oiseaux" & "Tambourin" from Suite in E minor (1724)
    • "L’indiscrète" from the Pièces de clavecin
  • Ravel
    • Gaspard de la nuit
    • Le Tombeau de Couperin
    • Oiseaux tristes (from Miroirs)
    • Prélude
    • Sonatine
  • Saint-Saëns
  • Schoenberg
    • Two Pieces Op.33
  • Schubert
    • Allegretto D.915
    • Hungarian Melody D.817
    • Impromptus D.899 No. 1–4, D.935 No. 1-4
    • Klavierstücke D.946 No. 1–3
    • Moment Musicaux D.780
    • Sonatas D.537, D.664, D.784, D.850, D.894, D.958, D.959 & D.960
    • Waltz in G major, D.844
    • Wanderer Fantasy
  • Schumann
    • Carnaval Op.9
    • Sonata No.1 in F-sharp minor, Op.11
    • Sonata No.2 in G minor, Op.22
    • Sonata No.3 in F minor, Op.14
    • Kreisleriana Op.16
    • Fantasie Op.17
    • Arabesque Op.18
    • Humoresque Op.20
    • Bunte Blätter, Op. 99
    • Noveletten Op.21 Nos. 2, 7 & 8
    • Presto passionato Op.22a
    • 4 Klavierstücke (Scherzo, Gigue, Romance and Fughette) Op.32
    • Variations in E-flat on an Original Theme, WoO 24, "Geister Variations"
  • Scriabin
    • Caresse dansée Op.57 No.2
    • Désir Op.57 No.1
    • Énigme Op.52 No.2
    • Etudes Op.2 No.1, Op.8, Op.42 Nos. 4 & 5
    • Feuillet d’album Op.45 No.1
    • Poème fantastique Op.45 No.2
    • Poèmes Op.32 No.2, Op.69 Nos. 1 & 2
    • Prelude & Nocturne for Left Hand Op.9
    • Preludes Op.11 No.4, Op.33 Nos. 1–4, Op.45 No.3, Op.49 No.2 & Op.51 No.2
    • Sonatas Nos. 1, 3, 4, 9 & 10
    • Vers la flamme Op.72
  • Seixas-Sokolov Toccatas in D & C
  • Stravinsky
  • Tchaikovsky

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