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Grigory Sokolov's 'The Salzburg Recital' Makes Iowa Public Radio?s 2015 Mega-Meta-List

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Today's output of classical albums is (pardon me while I scribble on the back of an envelope) something like triple what it was a generation ago. I won't vouch for that exact ratio, but I will for Anne Midgette's description of how it feels: "Keeping up with the stream of new releases is like trying to drink from a fire hose." Now imagine trying to capture a hose's jet-spray in a bucket, and you'll see why making a classical "best-of-year" list in 2015 struck many writers as a thankless task, even a hopeless one. Yet that didn't stop more of us than ever from trying - perhaps enough of us to be called a crowd. Could that crowd, taken together, have some kind of collective wisdom?

That was more or less the premise behind my "Classical Mega-Meta-List" last year (inspired by economist /blogger Tyler Cowen). I tallied every "best of year" list I could find - a total of 36, comprising about 100 writers.  This year I found far more: 64 lists, with at least 160 contributors, which makes this year's meta-list 60-77% more mega. It's not surprising that almost twice as many releases made the final cut, defined by being chosen for more than three best-of-year lists. Last year, 28 albums reached that threshold; this year, 50 albums did. That's a 78% increase.

Grigory Sokolov's 'The Salzburg Recital' received 6-7 votes in this pole.

A few years I posted a Facebook query: who really are the greatest living pianists? My friends in Europe kept mentioning a pianist who is little known in the US and has rarely performed here: Grigory Sokolov. Born in the USSR in 1950, he won the Gold Medal in the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966, but Cold War politics intervened, as did his uncompromising, contrarian artistic conscience: for decades he refused to enter a recording studio, sign with a label, or play a concerto. Well, now Deutsche Grammophon has an "exclusive" contract with him, and its first release is a two-disc recital recorded live in Salzburg in 2008. It makes you want to hear more. He includes two Mozart sonatas, the Chopin Preludes and two mazurkas, Scriabin, Rameau, and Bach, and really does sound different from any other pianist. He's both highly individual and probing, yet the result sounds not mannered but profound. I get what you were saying, Facebook friends!

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