The playing here has a rhapsodic, improvisatory quality which is utterly beguiling; the interpolated trills and flourishes, beginning immediately even in the opening aria, seem to derive from the sheer joy and exuberance Sokilov experiences in playing this timeless music. His mechanical prestidigitation is a thing of wonder yet its percussive regularity is tempered and balanced by the whimsy of the pianist's phrasing in the lyrical sections. There is enormous variety of mood and approach within this concert; the fifth variation is the epitome of insouciant Romaticism, like a rippling brook, whereas in No.8 Sokolov out-Goulds Gould for manic attack. The "Black Pearl" is by contrast almost too restrained and hesitant, courting stasis. One accusation you certainly cannot level at Sokolov is that his interpretation lacks personality
Unfortunately, the boxy, aggressive recording by Melodiya acoustic harkens back to another Russian (Soviet) style of recording, and the famed knowledgeable attentiveness of Russian audiences is belied by the inconsiderate hacks and sneezes which punctuate the playing. Such a pity that this most characterful, idiosyncratic and indeed fascinating account is marred by clangourous sound and Yahoos in the front seats.
The Partita and English Suite which complete CD2 are from other live concerts. Brilliantly executed, they are also in better sound before more appreciative and better disciplined listeners.