Grigory Sokolov, Norman Lebrecht Feud: Pianist Refuses Cremona Award Over Slipped Disc Post

By Steve Nagel on Oct 18, 2015 04:17 AM EDT

In the capricious world of award ceremonies, occasionally, a winner will refuse an award for, um, "personal reasons." Fewer still so suspiciously as reclusive Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, who recently refused the 2015 Cremona Music Award in what appeared to be an act of spite. His reasoning was given in the form of a handwritten note posted on his dedication page (written in both Italian and Russian), citing Slipped Disc agitator Norman Lebrecht as the sole reason for refusing the Cremona Music Award. Sokolov did not wish to be placed in the same category as Lebrecht, who had, himself, won the Cremona Music Award last year.

Mr. Sokolov's note, in translation, reads:

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

Although the specific animosities held by Sokolov toward Lebrecht are still up for debate, Spanish news website Mundo Clasico was first to publish an anonymous report that the refusal was personal in nature, referencing comments made by Lebrecht on the death (and lineage? and marriage??) of Sokolov's wife.

Certainly, as Limelight Magazine's unapologetic history of Lebrecht's commentary implies, a heap of speculation has been floating all around -- starting with Lebrecht's opinions on Sokolov as an overrated pianist. A standing columnist since 1994 for the Daily Telegraph, and author of 12 books -- a few of which have, literally, been pulled from the shelves -- Lebrecht revels in controversial positions. Since Slipped Disc left the HTML confines of Doug McLennan's ArtsJournal, this has been furthered by the growing popularity of Lebrecht's own aggregate news website, wherein he posts bite-sized, often spurious reports on a wide variety of subjects.

In fact, Lebrecht's since responded to the news story via his typical fashion. In a belittling comment on the situation, he wrote, "some sites seem to think this is a news story," spurring some biting condemnation of his own choice of news. One thing is sure: The incident has divided music commentary websites firmly on either side of the coin, some praising the "bravery" of Grigory Sokolov for standing up to his morals, and others lambasting the handwritten note as a childish act of "naming names."

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TagsCremona Music Award, Grigory Sokolov, Norman Lebrecht, Award Ceremonies, Slipped Disc, ArtsJournal, Limelight

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