The prodigious and articulate pianist James Rhodes has written a lively tribute in the Spectator magazine to the eccentric Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, who lives in Madrid. James calls him ‘the greatest living pianist’, an appellation that is hard to prove since Sokolov makes few recordings, lives a sheltered life and doesn’t go out much.
He especially won’t go to London since that would mean attending the consulate in person in order to obtain a visa.
That is something most of us have to do to go to Russia, China and many other countries, so I can’t offer him more than a modicum of sympathy and a further dash of regret that I won’t be hearing him any time soon. I hope he will sympathise with me in return for having to spend the rest of my life listening to the also-rans.
Somehow, I just don’t buy that ‘greatest’ thing when it cannot be tested in the same international conditions in which others are judged.