Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sokolov refuses Cremona prize

Almost unbelievably, this happened the other day:

Grigory Sokolov writes (translation)
'Dear Mr. Bianchedi, ladies and gentlemen of Comitato Artistico di Cremona Mondomusica e Piano Experience. I refuse to receive the prize, Cremona Music Award 2015. 'According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht. [Signed] G. Sokolov'
There's something profoundly depressing about this. 
The first startling thing is that to take such exception to a critic or commentator is to give them too much power over you. Look, all of us in the commentariat are minnows, and none of us deserve to be dignified with such importance. As Sibelius said, no statue has ever been put up to a critic (at least, it hadn't then). The second is that there are people in this business who are infinitely more poisonous than Norman Lebrecht. 
If it's any comfort, most of us writers try to serve the art we adore by offering something we hope is worthwhile - ideally, we should be trying to uphold the musical values that we feel, after many years of study and experience, are the most solid and crucial. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don't. But a tiny minority, for all I know (and I'm not speaking here of Mr Lebrecht), might have different motivations, which from the look of it could include anything on the spectrum from bitterness through jealousy to political ideology and, at worst, megalomania or a chemical imbalance. 
Dear, great and wonderful artists, please listen only to this: the best thing you can do is to ignore us. We're not important. You are.


UPDATE: 30 September
Here is the official position of CremonaFiere itself, from its communications director, Paolo Bodini

Just to clear the official position of CremonaFiere, organizer of Cremona Mondomusica and the Cremona Music Award, I’d like to inform you that CremonaFiere launched the Cremona Music Award, which is given within Cremona Mondomusica and Piano Experience since 2014, in order to reward the international personalities that have arisen in their respective areas of interest in the world of music.

In 2014, we awarded:
• Micheal Nyman (“Composition” category)
• Alfred Brendel (“Interpretation” category)
• Norman Lebrecht (“Communication” category)
• FuturOrchestra (“Project” category)

These people came to Cremona to receive the prize, except from Norman Lebrecht, who was unable to come and sent a video message.

This year, our Artistic Committee considered to award:
• Krzysztof Penderecki (Composition)
• Grigory Sokolov (Interpretation)
• Corinna Da Fonseca Wollheim, music critic of the New York Times (Communication)
• Stefano Belisari aka Elio (Project)

Maestros Penderecki and Belisari, and Corinna Da Fonseca Wollheim have come to Cremona to receive the prize, while Maestro Sokolov sent us a letter to refuse the prize, justifying this choice with the presence of Norman Lebrecht among the people awarded in 2014.

We don't want to discuss the personal relationship between Maestro Sokolov and Norman Lebrecht; we are just very sorry about Sokolov's choice, especially considering that Franco Panozzo, Sokolov's manager, sent us an email on August 4th, 2015, saying that Maestro Sokolov would have been very happy to come to Cremona to receive the prize, if he had been in Italy during Cremona Mondomusica. We also have to say that before that (June 29th, 2015) we informed Franco Panozzo about the people awarded in 2014, Norman Lebrecht included.
So we have been surprised that just a few days before the prize-giving ceremony Maestro Sokolov took this decision.

Best regards
Paolo Bodini