Ephemerides and other ephemeral bodies
We can divide all pianists into Grigory Sokolov and everybody else. It is futile and irrelevant to write anything about him, because it is like trying to put an angel on a pinhead or draw a pen over two hemispheres, to the East and to the West, trying to materialise the Odyssey into reality.
One can, of course, continue showing off their mastery of verbal gymnastics, outline the category of his personal musical time, attempt at determining his sky coordinates – various Ephemerides and other ephemeral bodies.
But who needs all this?
The mature Fernando Pessoa wrote, “If I must dream, why not my own dreams?”
It seems Grigory Sokolov would wish the same for us: to see our own dreams in his music, about Haydn and Schubert, whose music he was performing in Valletta at the Malta International Music Festival, in the XVI century castle where the Knights of St. John used to have their hospital; in the hall accessible only if one passes first a huge foyer with former hospital bed niches. By the way, next to the large hall there is a small one, the former morgue; and round the corner, by the entrance, stand the Knights of Malta, who, apparently, are deep in their own slumbers.
Sokolov is a maverick pianist, and this capacious English word brings a powerful description of him as an individualist and a dissident. Still, more remains unrevealed, as all you have to do is listen to Sokolov playing.
When he is playing, you either fall into anabiosis or in a daze, or anything else. Again, your state cannot be described in everyday words. It is incomprehensible how he makes it, and it is not necessary to comprehend it. What for? What does it matter, after all, what happens to the notes, sounds, and passages? If he wants to convey this very message, there is no need to know how he did it.
He simply heard and captured the music like Schubert, and brought it out of the inaudible world.
Sokolov played three Sonatas of Joseph Haydn and four Impromptus of Franz Schubert in a deliberately set-up semi-darkness. He performed Haydn’s rarities, not the last eight sonatas, but the three from his mid-period, they are all in a minor key: Sonata (Divertimento) No 32 in G minor, Sonata (Divertimento) No 47 in B minor and Sonata No 49 in C-sharp minor. Their rarity has its explanation: “Papa” Haydn, a notable wit, used to compose surprisingly mischievous music, mostly in a major key. Rarely being gloomy, even he was occasionally “blessed” with a bad mood. Both rhythm and melody frown in these sonatas, and it is not that easy for a musician to cope with them on a modern instrument. But not for Sokolov – no matter how deep the composer fell into the minor, the extraordinary sounds emanating from under the pianist’s hands, seem the only true ones. Muted half-tones, almost whispering; timbral variety, which is the known privilege of the old instruments, nonexistent nowadays; mysticism of détaché and occasional use of the pedal – these features make the modern piano similar to its predecessor of the Haydn times.
When he is playing, you either fall into anabiosis or in a daze, or anything else. Again, your state cannot be described in everyday words.
During the next four late-period Impromptus (D. 935) by Schubert, who is another Viennese composer but already a Romantic, and whose music seems to be appropriate for the modern piano – although everything is appropriate under Sokolov’s hands, even “Le rappel des oiseaux” by the harpsichordist Rameau performed as an encore – the chemistry of the air suddenly changed in the hall. And the pianist’s hands seemed to have changed: they became twice as large, softer and kinder. Sokolov performed Haydn with his fingertips; and Schubert’s music was performed by caressing the keyboard with the whole palm. Sokolov differentiated tones and shades of every single thing, he brought the harmonic vertical to the highest degree of transparency – you somehow miraculously were able to hear every single note of each chord – he was doing magic and something else, which does not succumb to any reason, neither subjective nor objective reality given to us in the form of sensation. He simply heard and captured the music like Schubert, and brought it out of the inaudible world.
But we seem to be drowning in descriptions, verbal, excessive, and this is absolutely unnecessary sophistication, which should not be here, since Sokolov’s words belong only to him and if someone among us is blessed to hear them, it is only to have an epiphany. At the same time, he is surprisingly straightforward in his semantic complexity, in his weird logic and strange meanings. This is yet another Zen story: there is nothing daunting; it is all here around us, and sometimes even next to us. One just needs to have the right point of view.
And his man-made music…
A series of encores has become a traditional part of the Sokolov’s recitals; they are not the pianist’s sign of favour, but in fact the third part of the concert. There were five encores: Schubert, Rameau, again Schubert, Chopin and Scriabin. The hands again were changing their size, volume and position on the keyboard. “But these music worlds are different,” said Grigory Sokolov to me after the concert.
According to Tertullian’s statement, one should believe in what – from the point of view of the ancient wisdom – is absurd, and perhaps this is the only thing one should believe in. This paradox is fundamentally unsolvable, no matter how deep we try to penetrate under its surface.
And do we need it? Probably not.
We only need to listen to Sokolov playing.
Метки статьи:European Foundation for Support of Culture • MIMF18 • Malta International Music Festival • Malta • Valletta2018
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