The Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, acclaimed as one of the greatest in the world, has been forced to cancel his upcoming performances in Scotland and London because of changes to UK visa regulations.

The pianist was due to make a rare solo recital at Glasgow's City Hall on May 8, but the artist, often described as one of the greatest pianists alive, had been faced with having to apply in person for a visa but felt unable to do so.

Since 1990, when he first performed in Britain, Sokolov, based in Italy, has had a third party arrange his visas to enter the UK. However, under new regulations for biometric visas, he would have to travel to the British embassy in Rome from his home in Verona to provide fingerprints.

Last night his manager, Angela Sulivan, said he felt unable to do this and so the performances would have to be cancelled. "It is a very distressing situation for him. He loved playing in the UK and he particularly loves playing in Scotland as the audiences have always been so supportive," she said.

"It is terribly difficult for an artist like Grigory to perform these tasks; someone who is so absorbed in his music, either practising, rehearsing or travelling from A to B.

"The question we ask is why he has to do this? In the past Great Britain has had no problem with him coming to the country. An artist like Sokolov cannot cope with that kind of distraction.

"We understand it is a new law and inflexible but hopefully in time it will soften at the edges - it is ironic that for all those years behind the Iron Curtain Sokolov could not get exit visas and it is awful that the UK is putting this kind of obstruction in front of him."

Ms Sulivan said that Mr Sokolov - known as an idiosyncratic and obsessive performer, as well as one who could be described as a genius - is due to play in the UK next year, and she hopes that the regulations could be altered slightly to be more sympathetic to both artists and frequent visitors to the UK.

Last night a spokeswoman for the City Halls said: "Unfortunately Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov has been forced to cancel his UK recitals next month, including a performance at Glasgow's City Halls on May 8 as part of Glasgow's Concert Hall's International Classical Season.

"This is due to problems with obtaining a visa for Sokolov to perform in the UK following the introduction of new government regulations this year.

"This situation was obviously very much beyond the control of the artist, his agent and the venues involved and everything possible was done to avoid the cancellation."

In London, Robert Van Leer, head of music for the Barbican, which had sold out its Sokolov tickets, said: "Even if we move past this individual situation, I don't see it as a tenable way of working with artists.

"We often have artists who are not back in their home country for weeks on end. I'm worried about how we're going to deal with these artists."

A UK Border Agency spokesman said that everybody who needs a biometric visa to enter the UK has to provide fingerprints, and the new system has already identified "hundreds" of identity frauds.