Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Lebrecht, Sokolov…and Sokolov’s wife

Grigory Sokolov’s refusal of the Cremona Award, on account its having previously been presented to Norman Lebrecht, has generated much debate about the cause of their antagonism. Some have speculated that it’s a result of a blogpost Lebrecht wrote in 2013 questioning Sokolov’s greatness on the curious grounds of his not being willing to perform in the UK. But a reply to my previouspost on this story, from one ‘ADGO’, points to a more compelling reason. Here is the message in full:

“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.”

And Sokolov’s response here:
As the earlier version of Lebrecht’s post on Sokolov’s site shows, “his wife was also his cousin’s widow” originally read “his wife was also his aunt”, a more lurid claim and, as it turns out, a false one. Lebrecht could probably have avoided this whole incident if he had issued an acknowledged correction and an apology, rather than the “update” we get instead. But, of course, that’s not how Lebrecht works.

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: