Sunday, 27 September 2015

Evidence Grigory Sokolov refused the Cremona Music Award

A fascinating document came to light this morning, a letter from Grigory Sokolov to the committee of the Mondomusica Festival, apparently turning down the Cremona Music Award on the grounds that it would mean he appeared on a list with Norman Lebrecht, a previous winner. His closing line is particularly incendiary “According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht.”

But is it real? The website on which it appears,, has no official links with Sokolov or his management. From what I can gather, it is registered in Australia and hosted in Israel. Given the antagonism that Lebrecht generates, there could be no shortage of potential candidates for a forgery, although the handwriting is impressively similar to that on a Sokolov letter that does appear on his management’s website.

Well, here's proof at least that he was announced as a winner of the award, but that he had been removed from the list by the time they were actually presented. Here is the webpage announcing the winners today:

And here is how it looked on 12 September, four days before the date on the letter (courtesy of the Google cache).

No doubt the details will all become clear in due course, including the Lebrecht connection, for which I’ve no proof here. But it certainly seems that Sokolov turned down the award.

UPDATE (28/9/15): Gramophone Magazine confirmed the letter to be genuine today, after contacting Sokolov's General Manager, Franco Panozzo. For more on the story, please visit:


  1. Dear Gavin,
    just to clarify the official position of CremonaFiere, organizer of Cremona Mondomusica and the Cremona Music Award, I’d like to inform you that CremonaFiere launched the Cremona Music Award, which is given within Cremona Mondomusica and Piano Experience since 2014, in order to reward the international personalities that have arisen in their respective areas of interest in the world of music.

    In 2014, we awarded:
    • Micheal Nyman (“Composition” category)
    • Alfred Brendel (“Interpretation” category)
    • Norman Lebrecht (“Communication” category)
    • FuturOrchestra (“Project” category)

    These people came to Cremona to receive the prize, except from Norman Lebrecht, who was unable to come and sent a video message.

    This year, our Artistic Committee considered to award:
    • Krzysztof Penderecki (Composition)
    • Grigory Sokolov (Interpretation)
    • Corinna Da Fonseca Wollheim, music critic of the New York Times (Communication)
    • Stefano Belisari aka Elio (Project)

    Maestros Penderecki and Belisari, and Corinna Da Fonseca Wollheim have come to Cremona to receive the prize, while Maestro Sokolov sent us a letter to refuse the prize, justifying this choice with the presence of Norman Lebrecht among the people awarded in 2014.

    We don't want to discuss the personal relationship between Maestro Sokolov and Norman Lebrecht; we are just very sorry about Sokolov's choice, especially considering that Franco Panozzo, Sokolov's manager, sent us an email on August 4th, 2015, saying that Maestro Sokolov would have been very happy to come to Cremona to receive the prize, if he had been in Italy during Cremona Mondomusica. We also have to say that before that (June 29th, 2015) we informed Franco Panozzo about the people awarded in 2014, Norman Lebrecht included.
    So we have been surprised that just a few days before the prize-giving ceremony Maestro Sokolov took this decision.

    Best regards
    Paolo Bodini

    1. Thanks Paolo. I hope this year's ceremony went well otherwise. Gavin

  2. As Lebrecht refused to post my comment on his blog Slippedisc, I will copy-paste it here for all to read. He cannot bury his shameless actions forever.

    Recall last year that soon after Sokolov's wife passed away, the pianist published a cryptic letter which began, 'To my astonishment, I have learned about some delirious inventions made on the subject of my wife's life'. This can be read in full on Sokolov's website or on AMC. The cause of that was most likely Norman Lebrecht's blog post in which he speculated about Sokolov marrying his dead cousin's wife, going into detail about the apparent Sokolov family tree. You can find this blog post still on Slippedisc, and the links at the bottom of it which lead to the old Sokolov website. Click any of those links and you'll see a message which states that Norman Lebrecht should not be believed. Lebrecht's rash and shameless speculation about Sokolov's recently deceased wife is most likely the reason why Sokolov refuses to associate with him. I want to make this clear as it is the only sensible public explanation for Sokolov's refusal. There may be private reasons no one can know about, but the public one is there for all to see.

    On another matter....I've attended Sokolov's recitals for nearly 15 years and he is without doubt the greatest pianist I've ever heard. If you can't hear him in the UK--which I used to--then take a trip to Brussels or Amsterdam and it'll most likely turn into one of the great concert experiences of your life.

  3. 'According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht'

    A shame, indeed. I don't blame Sokolov one bit.