Grigory Lipmanovich Sokolov (Russian: Григо́рий Ли́пманович Соколо́в; born April 18, 1950) is a Russian concert pianist.
Sokolov began studying the piano at the age of five and he 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 the jury at the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, headed by Emil Gilels, unanimously awarded him the Gold Medal. 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."
In fact, despite the international prestige of his Tchaikovsky Competition success, Sokolov's international career began to flourish only towards the end of the 1980s. It has been said 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 US tours in 1969, 1971, 1975, and 1979, 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 proved something of a stumbling-block to Sokolov's career in the US. "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. One tour in the U.S. was cancelled in 1980. Then all cultural agreements between the two countries were cancelled." 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 a 20-year span from 1995 to 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 March 2009, it was reported that Sokolov cancelled a planned concert in London because of British visa requirements demanding that all non-EU 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.
When asked, 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 esthetics, I feel most close to Anton Rubinstein."
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