Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

When Fame Can’t Cross the Atlantic
New York Times – United States

Fascinating story (and review) of Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, lionized in Europe; barely known in America….

Classical music is supposedly universal. Language may still be a cultural barrier for writers and actors. Even visual artists, depending on the subjects they choose, won’t necessarily translate abroad.

That Mr. Sokolov, whose talent is beyond dispute, disproves this notion should remind us not only of our persistent parochialism but also of our delusions about technology. The Web, on which he can be found on YouTube, giving astonishing performances, clearly doesn’t substitute for hearing him live. Neither do discs, which, as a perfectionist, he stopped issuing in 1995 (this partly explains his American situation), although years ago Mr. Sokolov’s recordings sent me hunting for a chance to hear him in person. On one of those discs he played Chopin’s 24 Preludes with great sensitivity. He played them again the other night. It was, like all concerts likely to stay in the mind forever, nothing that could ever be captured digitally.

He gives about 60 solo recitals a year, so his manager told me; no chamber or orchestral music at the moment. He was born in Leningrad and won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966, at 16. Emil Gilels headed the jury. For a while Sol Hurok promoted him.

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Zimerman’s ovation in Rome – Warsaw,Poland

Returning to Rome, Krystian Zimerman surprises with a switch to Chopin…

The second part was taken up by an all-Chopin programme, instead of earlier-announced Brahms and Szymanowski.

The recital was Zimerman’s first appearance in Rome after a lapse of ten years. Some Poles in the audience remembered Zimerman’s concert and meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on Christmas Eve in 1980.

Fifty two year-old Krystian Zimerman is the winner of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1975. (mk)

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Yundi Li: Prokofiev/Ravel
Times Online – UK

Review (mostly positive) of Yundi Li’s attempt to break out of his Chopin sterotype, along with the inevitable Lang Lang comparisions….

There comes a time in any young piano virtuoso’s life when the need mounts for breaking out of the core 19th-century repertoire into the wide, wild world beyond. You can’t always be wrapped around Chopin and Liszt. Alongside oriental trinkets, that smiling Chinese onslaught Lang Lang has become an improbable concert interpreter of the thickets of notes in Tippett’s Piano Concerto. For his second concerto CD, Yundi Li, Lang Lang’s compatriot (born the same year, too, 1982), has been more cautious. He has chosen Prokofiev No 2, in a Berlin live performance from May. […]

The more Lang Lang’s performances drift into candelabra rhetoric – the Liberace style of playing – the greater the attraction of Yundi Li’s sobriety. Maybe this Prokofiev could be more tigerish, yet Yundi’s dizz dexterity and ability to shade colours within the composer’s dark and narrow band gave sufficient pleasure to me. To the Berlin audience also: the performance concludes with their roars of applause.

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