‘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
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
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.
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.
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“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
What he means is playing with leading conductors as often as
possible, making top-quality recordings and, above all, being demanding on
“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
He is most grateful to Gideon Kremer, with whom he studied
“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
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.”
Sokolov will play pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev and Shubert.For
more details: http://www.eilatfestival.com
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