Making the connection

Violinist Valery Sokolov makes his Israeli debut at the Eilat Chamber Music Festival.

March 1, 2012 17:34
3 minute read.
Violinist Valery Sokolov

Violinist Valery Sokolov 390. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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‘I was happy and proud to be invited to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival,” says violinist Valery Sokolov in a phone interview from his home in Munich. “For me, Israel is a mecca of violin playing, and I know many Israeli musicians. But I was also surprised, as I have no professional connections with Israel.”

Sokolov would have been less surprised if he knew that the very idea of the festival, which takes place this year from March 11 – 17 at Isrotel’s Princess Hotel, is to bring to Israel rising stars of classical music, as well as outstanding ensembles that are still unfamiliar to the local audience.

And Sokolov suits this definition perfectly. He was only 17 when film director Bruno Monsaingeon dedicated his film Un violon dans l’ame (Natural Born Fiddler) to him.

Today, Sokolov performs with important orchestras throughout Europe, as well as plays chamber music and performs recitals. He also records with the prestigious EMI label and has a chamber music festival of his own.

Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, into a family of geologists, Sokolov started playing violin at the age of six. After winning the Sarasate prize/scholarship at 13, he went to London to study with Natalia Boyarskaya at the Yehudi Menuhin Violin School.

As a little boy, how did he feel being alone in strange city? “I didn’t even think about it,” he says. “From the age of 10, violin has been the center of my universe, and I just knew that I had to do everything I could to play better. But now I try to visit my native city and my parents more often,” says the 25-year-old.

He later won first prize at the prestigious George Enescu competition and continued his education with important musicians and teachers, such as Felix Andrievsky, Anna Chumachenko and Gideon Kremer.

“Now I am trying to live on my own, and Munich as a home base fits me in many ways,” he says.

Sokolov lives the typical life of a soloist – traveling, performing, learning new pieces, widening horizons through encounters with fellow musicians.

“I try to be universal, playing in different styles, especially in chamber music. But I don’t want my life to be spent in a mass of flights and concerts. Ultimately, I want to be able to say that I achieved something, that I left something meaningful after me.”

What he means is playing with leading conductors as often as possible, making top-quality recordings and, above all, being demanding on himself.

“Sometimes being selfdemanding has its negative sides. It probably makes you less selfconfident, but there is no other way. For example, I am very careful about the choice of my premiere concerts with a new orchestra, and I will never attempt to perform a piece if I still don’t have a concept of the piece that is my own. It’s not about being different but rather about understanding,” he says.

Chamber music is Sokolov’s special love, and he tries to perform it as much as possible.

“Playing chamber music demands a lot of work,” he says. “In duets, I try to play with the same pianist, so that there is a chance of creating something true and not an ad hoc performance.”

He is most grateful to Gideon Kremer, with whom he studied and performed.

“He is a walking score. His knowledge is immense, and he taught me to delve into the music text as profoundly as possible, revealing new aspects in familiar pieces.”

Three years ago Sokolov inaugurated a chamber music festival in his native Kharkov.

“The idea is to bring my older and more experienced colleagues, to play together with them and to learn. But not just that. I bring young artists, too. Some 25 musicians participate in the event, with the Szymanowski Quartet from Hanover serving as the home quartet of the festival. Among last year’s participants were such prominent musicians as cellists Gary Hoffman and Leonid Gorokhov, singer Maria Semenchuk from the Mariinsky Theater, Israeli violist Gilad Karni; and music critic Artiom Vargaft and my close friend Bruno Monsaingeon, who brought his music films with him, which the local public would otherwise not have a chance to see,” he says.

Sokolov sums up, “The idea is to invite people who are not only fine musicians but also good human beings, to create a pleasant atmosphere and to recharge our batteries before the new season starts.”

In Eilat, Sokolov will play pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev and Shubert.

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