AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER REVIEWS OF CONCERTS BY DIMITRIS SGOUROS 1987, 1989, 1991

Sydney Opera House  

 

With Bob Hawke (Prime Minister of Australia)

 

Melbourne Concert Hall  

 

Back to Home Page - Free MP3 Music by Dimitris Sgouros


 "I don't think anyone would care about Horowitz's wrong notes. Ten wrong notes by him don't count among 3000 right ones."
 "The biggest problem for the artist is to satisfy the audience. I never say to myself I have to play better than him or her. I just have the feeling that I must please the audience."
 "I would never put off a performance. I don't like cancelling unless you have 40-41 fever. Or if you can't breathe."
 
  
   
   

SPARKS AND SIMPLICITY

THE AGE, 9 JULY 1987

 


PLAYING TO TREASURE

SUNDAY MAIL, 12 JULY 1987

There may have been political excitement in the tally room last night, but there was excitement of a different kind in Brisbane's packed Concert Hall.

Michael Edgley International made it possible for this audience to marvel at the musical prowess of 17-year-old Greek concert pianist Dimitris Sgouros.

The power at Sgouros' fingertips both musically and physically was never for a moment in doubt.

Beethoven's 32 Variations in C Minor, the Fantasy in F Minor by Chopin, Liszt's Mephisto Waltz and Transcendental Etude No. 3, and Variations on a Theme of Paganini Books 1 and 2 are a gruelling test of artistry and technique no matter whether the pianist is 17 or 70.

This young artist's technical assurance gave the music its full reign of expressive power, but always technique was subordinated absolutely to musical instinct.

Sgouros' performance of Beethoven was brilliant yet thoughtful.

 


A MASTERLY DISPLAY OF MUSICAL ABILITY

THE AUSTRALIAN, 13 JULY 1987

By: MICHAEL BRIMER

I cannot recall coming away from a piano recital with such a feeling of elation as I did from that given by the 17-year-old Dimitris Sgouros. It was as if one had at last heard the pianist one had been waiting to hear all one's life!

The F minor Fantasy of Chopin took us straight into the salons with melting rubato (even, very convincingly, in the march). And an infallible realisation of the import of harmonic progressions.

The first Mephisto Waltz of Liszt proved an absolutely stunning experience - probably the highlight in an evening full of highlights - while Paysage was handled with great sensitivity.

 


WITH DIMITRIS SGOUROS, THE MYTHS ARE TRUE STORIES

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 15 JUL 1987, Page 14

By: PETER McCALLUM

WHAT secret is it that enables a Mozart or a Gauss to open those hidden treasure houses of the mind which for the rest of us are locked (or, more probably, just missing) and perform prodigious feats which make other people look like children?

Dimitris Sgouros is no stranger to such feats. Travelling to his New York debut at the ripe old age of 12, he expected to play Tchaikovsky. Because of a program clash, the conductor, distinguished Russian cellist Rostropovich, who has done much to further Dimitris's career, wanted to change the concerto. "Arriving at the airport," Dimitris explained, "he told me, 'tomorrow morning you will be rehearsing the Rachmaninov third', which I had previously only sight-read. The next night I performed it for the first time." But with a grin and a bemused shrug he admits he doesn't really like working this way.

Of such stories legends are made. Such legends light up biographies of Mozart, Liszt and Paganini like bright, over-large jewels. You feel ambivalent towards them. They are probably just glass but how extraordinary if they are real. But it would need a stronger sceptic than me to maintain, after meeting Dimitris Sgouros, that such things are not possible. By an ironic twist his talents validate stories which you had assumed to be myths, caught up in the web of greatness.

And the key? For Dimitris, all aspects of music emanate from a single source. "Technique, maturity, personality, expression, everything comes from, let's say, this special box which is called 'memories'.

"My father is a doctor and we've talked about it. From memory everything starts and everything goes back there. If memory doesn't give the right spirit, the right instruction, then there is nothing."

Dimitris's memory is not confined to music. He speaks four languages and learns mathematical formulae, passages from literature, and whole opera libretti with the greatest of ease. This is probably just as well. In a year in which he has celebrated his first decade as an international artist, he has also had to finish secondary and tertiary schooling and give his customary 40 recitals a year all over the world. He receives enough invitations to fill up every day of the year with concerts if he wanted to but he is keenly aware of the problems of fatigue and burn-out. How much does he practise?

"That depends - if you take just technique, almost nothing, but I really work hard with my mind on the pieces and the score. If you practise six or eight hours a day, I don't think you can give the pieces freshness - you cannot give the public what you really feel, you become a machine."

Dimitris rarely warms up before a performance. If he does he might play through some of his beloved Italian operas, singing the parts as he goes. When I spoke to him in Melbourne, he had just completed a television recording of Liszt's dazzlingly difficult Don Juan Fantasy. Unlike most modern recording sessions, there were no cuts or retakes. He just sat down and played it.

With a repertoire which extends from Scarlatti to Cage, Dimitris's special domain is the 19th century. His favourite pianists are Rubinstein, Horowitz, Michelangeli and Richter but he feels that Liszt was the greatest of them all. "All the Liszt works are for me great pieces. I feel I can imagine what his playing was like." The affinity is at once obvious and surprising. As with Liszt, difficulty at the keyboard is unknown to him. But his platform manner is the very opposite of Lisztian flamboyance. His walk to the piano is simple almost to the point of awkwardness, and his keyboard style free of any unnecessary gesture. One is simply aware of a relaxed but unbreakable concentration.

But unlike Liszt, he doesn't compose and perhaps there lies the rub. Is the demarcation dispute which has separated these roles in the 20th century healthy for music? Dimitris shrugged: "I have to accept that we are living in an epoch where the two things cannot be successful at the same time." However, he points to distinguished exceptions and does not rule out competition in the future. At the moment his tastes tend to be conservative. Of contemporary Greek composers, for example, he plays Skalkottas but Xenakis, as yet, doesn't appeal.

What sort of teenager does such a lifestyle produce? If you feel the hot house atmosphere might be bad for young health the answer is reassuring. Dimitris wears his talent lightly with neither false modesty nor false pride. It is a personality free of over-sophistication and would be unique but not uncomfortable in your local high school. Only when talking about music does an intensity behind the eyes become apparent.

Though Dimitris's career to date would outflank the ambitions of the most driving parents, Dimitris's are quiet and welcoming. Brother, Costas, 11, and girlfriend are here. They go for walks, play pinball (with Mozart it was billiards), make noise. The naturalness of the family makes the brass and marble of Melbourne's Hyatt seem rather pretentious.

And what advice can Dimitris, who achieved at 13 what most pianists would be happy to achieve in a lifetime, give to young performers. "Well, the only thing I wish them is luck. There are a lot of genius-performers who have not made a career. Really luck is all that is left."


TALENT WITH NO LIMITS

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 20 JULY 1987

By: PETER McCALLUM

IF you were allowed to use the word "genius'' only once in a lifetime - and for critics this would probably be a good thing - you would probably be safe to use it up on the 17-year-old Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros, who packed the Opera House Concert Hall on Friday night.

Who can predict the boundaries this talent will reach, which at 17 has mastered enough repertoire for a dozen pianists and left the giants of the musical world fumbling for superlatives?

Sgouros does not aim for a French polish finish but lets the grain of the music show through, unblemished by artificiality or deliberate striving for effect.

There are a simplicity and lack of pretension about his playing and, at its best, the music simply flows with effortless ease, watched over by an extraordinary concentration.

He has technique to burn and sometimes does just this, taking risks which would derail the most courageous. Sometimes they derail him, such as at the end of the Don Juan Fantasy, Liszt's hair-raising and, for some, ire-rising, paraphrase on themes of Mozart's Don Giovanni. But this doesn't seem to matter.

Here is a pianist who quite patently doesn't have to prove anything and will risk not giving his best performance in order to try for an even better one. Even those who feel that Liszt should be confined to Dante's Inferno for tampering with Mozart, would have to agree that the demonic energy of the performance was staggering.


WONDERFUL SGOUROS STUNS AGAIN

THE HERALD, 27 JULY 1987

By: JEREMY VINCENT

SIX months ago Dimitris Sgouros was a stranger to most of Melbourne. Now he is practically a household name.

This third appearance by the 17-year-old Greek wonder in as many weeks again hit the audience right between the eyes, forcing some of them to stand and clap their hearts out even at the halfway mark.

Here was another dazzling display of talent, but this time there was something more.

This time Sgouros used Bach, Beethoven and Liszt to outline his versatility, then he summed up all his skills in an intelligent keyboard conversation with Schumann, allowing mature musical understanding to stand proudly alongside pure showmanship. It was programming at its best.

Bach's Italian Concerto was handled with care. In the allegro, Sgouros spun out the music so that it was almost song-like, with each hand full of deliberate and in dividual clarity yet never out of balance with its mate.

The slow movement was a triumph for the right hand.

Similar eloquence was applied to Beethoven's Sonata No 26 in E flat major Op. 81a "Les Adieux", with the pianist pushing the music to its subtle limits -burying himself in the emotion of the slow movement, then launching headlong into the powerful finale. There was just the right amount of pace and depth.

Liszt's astonishing Don Juan Grand Fantasy was a logical progression. A rather crass pot-pourri of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, it served as the out-right crowd-pleaser at this concert.

Again an almost possessed Sgouros took total control of the keyboard, running, trilling and pounding until, from the audience's point of view, both eye and ear could not keep up.

Then, after a catch-the-breath interval, Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques Op.13 came as the pinnacle.


SGOUROS PERFORMANCE A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

CANBERRA TIMES, 27 JULY 1987

By: W. L. HOFFMANN

In the life of the music critic there are performances that are very good and others which are not so good, but only very rarely is there a concert which offers performances of such riveting brilliance and consummate musicianship that even the critic is left searching for words to do it justice.

Such a concert was that given by the 17-year-old genius of the piano, Dimitris Sgouros, in the Canberra Theatre on Saturday night.

His recordings had provided some foretaste of his stupendous technical accoutrements and his interpretive mastery, but they could not convey the impact of his playing when heard live in the concert hall. Liszt's Mephisto Waltz, one of the great virtuosic display pieces of piano literature, was thrown off with unbelievable ease and assurance, its fiery cascades of notes played with a control and accuracy that was staggering. Yet the quiet, reflective beauty of Paysage from the same composer's set of Transcendental Studies was just as effectively realised with playing of extraordinarily fine tonal colouration.

It was not merely a program of virtuosic "lollipops" either, the three major works all being large-scale compositions representing each of the three composers at their most impressive. Sgouros opened with Beethoven's noble and eloquent Thirty-two Variations in C minor given a masterly and searching performance and followed this with Chopin's Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49. This is one of Chopin's longest and most diverse works for piano solo and it received a performance that balanced poetry with passion and brought its varying melodic elements together in a realisation that was as eminently satisfying as it was sheer pleasure to listen to.

In such a recital it is impossible to say that any one piece was the highlight yet the final work, the Variations on a theme of Paganini, by Brahms, seemed to top all that had gone before with what could only be called a miracle of pianism.

This fiendishly demanding work, awesome in its formidable technical structure, was played with such verve, power, clarity and amazing accuracy that the listener was just left stunned. The octave glissando passages in Variation 13 of Book 1 were as clear as if they were merely single-note runs and the exhausting double-notes in Variation 1 of Book 2 were played with seemingly effortless ease.

It was playing of which one could say "I heard it, I saw it, but I still can't believe it!". Most remarkable of all, beneath all the technical brilliance the musical qualities of the work, were realised and conveyed with commanding power. That it was accomplished by a 17-year-old is one of those miracles in music that are unexplainable as they are rare.

After this demanding program Sgouros, showing no signs of exhaustion, played three encores, the second of which, Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase, brought the entire capacity audience to its feet in a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.

Pianism of this quality is unique; those fortunate enough to hear Dimitris Sgouros on Saturday night will not easily forget his playing. It was indeed a night to remember.


DIMITRIS, THE GREEK WUNDERKIND

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 28 JUL 1987, Page 20

By: FRED BLANKS

PHENOMENAL is the key word. Dimitris Sgouros, whom I heard for the first time at his second sold-out Sydney recital, is a phenomenon both in a physiological and a musical sense.

His technique is incredible; it must be seen as well as heard. What he can do with his fingers, quite apart from their effect on the keyboard, is amazing. The sheer exhilaration of his playing can bring an audience to the edge of its seats, and he cures coughing more surely than any elixir. All this, and only 17 years old; it is legitimate to wonder what the future holds for him.

He turned the impetuosity of youth into an artform for many of the Paganini Variations by Brahms (both books) and brought a scintillating brilliance as well as total accuracy to Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No1. His incisive staccato notes, his breathlessly rapid yet precise arpeggios, his command of dynamics were wonderful. And yet the borderline between throwing new light on mainstream music and subjecting it to eccentricities is not easily defined. There were moments in Chopin's Fantasy in F minor and in the 32 Variations in C minor by Beethoven when the sudden emphasis of a single note or a phrase, the unexpected spurt or slackening, drew attention to the performer more than it said something plausible about the music. Perhaps that is where the future can help.

You can't hurry up the future. Meanwhile, Dimitris Sgouros is the Greek equivalent of a Wunderkind, and that is a very rare and valuable species.


THE MAJESTY OF A MASTER CRAFTSMAN

THE ADVERTISER, 30 JUL 1987, Page 016

By: ELIZABETH SILSBURY

Dimitris Sgouros
Festival Theatre

BRAVO, bravissimo, Dimitris Sgouros. He is a giant among piano players, a master in any company of musicians. The world of music has never needed him more than now. It has tangled itself into a state of unprecedented disrespect for our noble art and has allowed two generations of young people to grow up with half-baked notions about self-expression and individual rights, leaving them vulnerable to the evil forces of commercialism which seduce them into believing that their essentially domestic abilities warrant public exhibition and even payment.

But such is the irresistible power of real music made by Sgouros, the epitome of a real musician, thousands of musically deprived people need only a tiny celluloid taste of his music to bring them in flocks to the real thing. He is incontrovertible proof of music's absolute truths. There is no substitute for talent. He has a rare musical soul. Richly endowed with many gifts, he is the archetypal natural musician, and only by being so could he have accomplished so much in so little time. His hands fit the keyboard as though custom-built, his memory has absorbed and holds available for instant, precise recall, literally billions of notes, each with its own range of possibilities for weight and color. His fine finger muscles are co-ordinated to a degree that lead him direct to the innermost heart of his music.

The lucky 2000 who attended his two-hour concert were even more entranced by the reality of him than by his promotions. From his opening bars, the audience assumed a trance-like state of adulatory awe so intent, so still, that one snuffly breather intruded like an avalanche. Sgouros's powers are superhuman and virtually unlimited. But it is not necessary for almost every piece in his program to be a blockbuster, and while he is well-advised to treat Beethoven sonatas with caution for the present, sets of variations generally give little relief to player and audience from pianistic acrobatics. Beethoven's prosy 32 Variations in C Minor are in themselves a pedagogic exercise and let Sgouros flex his muscles for the main game. For technical brilliance, judgment of tonal contrasts, sensitivity of phrasing and balance within and between sections as they related to overall structure, the Chopin Fantasy in F Minor op. 49 and the demon-driven, pitchfork-powered Mephisto Waltz No. 1 of Franz Liszt were flawless.

After interval, Sgouros conserved energy and built up adrenaline in his beautifully contemplative countryside ramble along the lanes of Liszt's Paysage - Transcendental Etude No. 3. Liszt, Chopin, middle period Beethoven - all music for youth, if not usually for boys. But the inexhaustibly inventive imagination and superlative technique Brahms poured without stint into his two books of Variations - 32 of them in all - on A Theme of Paganini op. 35 are strictly men only. Or were, until Sgouros. Dazzling technical displays, feats of strength, octave glissandi, octave trills, delicate, fanciful waltzes, music box tinklings, melancholy and glee, despair and whimsy - the more complex the processes were the more he revelled in deciphering them. Always cool and aware of the need for complete control, he applied his own brakes around number 25, meting out his resources carefully to complete this marathon with the same dignity that he began it.

That should have been enough for him and for us, but he gave us three encores - two Liszt, one Albeniz - anyway.

Bravo, Bravissimo, Dimitris Sgouros.


CONTROL BLENDS WITH INSTINCT, PERFECTLY

THE AGE, JULY 1987

By: KENNETH HINCE
 
Dimitris Sgouros, solo pianist
Concert Hall, Friday, 8 pm

Once again this young musician showed the depth and range of his astonishing technique in the most forcible manner.

Agility, fine and firm pedalling, masterly control of the keyboard in each of its aspects, thundering octaves and double-octaves delivered at a speed too fast for conscious planning, a speed at which you must let the trained instinct take over - everything was there, and applied just as needed.

But there was more to it than this. There was a sense of judgment still developing but already unmistakeable.

I hinted in an earlier review that I thought only time would turn Sgouros into one of the world's great pianists.

I still believe this to be true.

But this is not to deny the thoughtful and very musical planning which went into shaping the works on Friday's program, the first two especially.

He played Bach's 'Italian' concerto extremely deliberately, not always with a perfect balance of treble and bass tone, but with a style which did much to evoke the harpsichord quality beneath the tone of the piano and to set the music back where it belonged.

So often a modern virtuoso will play the work with a tone that is all Steinway and a touch better suited to Chopin. The focus of Sgouros's playing was quite different, and his accurate definition of the ornaments was remarkably pleasant.

The 'Les Adieux' sonata of Beethoven had quite a cool, judicious and effective performance, again not without problems of balance. Part of the second subject of the opening movement, for instance, tended to disappear into the maw of a fairly powerful left hand.

The playing in the 'Don Giovanni' fantasy of Liszt was tremendous stuff, as the music itself is cascades and torrents of notes pushed to the outer limit of virtuosity and often threatening to fall over the edge into the grandest kind of chaos, but always curbed at the last moment by the pianist's iron nerve.

You would have to be made of lead not to be excited by this kind of playing, which was almost as much of a sporting event as a musical performance.

But of the whole program I most enjoyed the playing of Schumann's 'Etudes symphoniques', given with polished reticent tact and great tenderness.

Sgouros will repeat this program in Perth next Thursday night.


SGOUROS - HE'S A TEENAGE MASTER

SUNDAY TIMES, JULY 1987

By: NEVILLE COHN

In many years of concertgoing, I cannot recall a more stunning instance of musical precocity than that of Dimitris Sgouros, soloist with the WA Symphony Orchestra in his Australian debut at the Concert Hall.

At 17, he brings to his performance the authority and insight of a mature master.

To be sure, this is not unique but it is certainly rare. One can find parallels with, say, Yehudi Menuhin - whose teenage recording of Elgar's Violin Concerto is still a high-water mark - and with pianist Ruth Slenczynska, who gave major recitals in Paris when she was seven.

Sgouros' technical facility is astonishing. He negotiates some of the most hazardous musical terrains with awesome ease and assurance.

Tchaikowsky's Concert Fantasy For Piano and Orchestra, for instance, is a work of only modest intrinsic worth, but its formidable difficulties make it forbidden territory for all but the most dextrous of pianists.

Suffice to say, Sgouros romped through it, and in the process (and this is another aspect of his great gifts) made this trashy piece, by the persuasiveness of his artistry, sound much better than it really is.

Another feature of Sgouros' mature approach is his complete avoidance of virtuosity for its own sake. There was no hint of playing to the gallery.

Even at its most brilliant, one felt this agility, which can so easily degenerate into a flashy display, was a means to an end only.

It is this which places the teenage Sgouros in the front rank and at an age when most aspirants to a concert career are still cutting their musical teeth.

Vladimir Verbitsky led WASO through fine accompaniments, alert to every nuance of Sgouros' playing in both the Fantasy and Liszt's Piano Concerto No 2 in A.

[...]


RASH OF GENIUS CAUSES A DOSE OF SGOUROS FEVER

HERALD, JULY 1987

By: JEREMY VINCENT

The piano does strange things to Dimitris Sgouros. It transforms a shy youth into a mature adult.

Sgouros fever hit Melbourne again at the weekend at the 17-year-old's first concert hall recital.

And perhaps the only complaint this performance warranted was that its sheer intensity was too much to absorb in such a short period.

The almost unbelievable display Sgouros gave Franz Liszt's Mephisto Waltz alone would have satisfied me.

Like a good sportsman stroking a ball, Sgouros plays through the notes extracting maximum value for his effort. He never hammers the keys and his transitions from forte to pianissimo or even mezzo forte are never exaggerated. They come naturally, be they caught up in the Mephisto frenzy or in the sedate elegance of Liszt's Etude No 3 or Chopin's Fantasy in F minor Op 49.

The talent continued to flow thick and fast, concluding with Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Paganini Op 35 (Books 1 and 2).

Sgouros will play at the concert hall on July 24.


A PHENOMENAL PERFORMANCE

THE AUSTRALIAN, 1987

By: MICHAEL BRIMER
 
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Vladimir Verbitksy, conductor
Dimitris Sgouros, piano
Melbourne Concert Hall

That this was an extraordinary concert there can be no doubt at all. The program and the performers promised a great evening's listening. The fulfilment of that promise can be regarded as ranging from below expectation to way beyond.

Verbitsky amply fulfilled expectations. His musical intentions in relation to the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition and the Capriccio Espagnol of Rimsky-Korsakov were absolutely valid and satisfying.

The funny thing was that the orchestra's response was very uneven. There were some excellent stretches but there were also times when one felt that, although the MSO seemed to be trying its hardest, the playing was quite simply not the high standard of which it is capable.

It really was a great pity because one could not escape the feeling that here was a golden opportunity missed. Pictures is an orchestral showpiece and, with Verbitsky conducting, the performance should have been more successful.

Verbitsky was an excellent partner for Dimitris Sgouros in the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto after the interval. It can be stated straight away that this was a phenomenal performance. Rachmaninov, if he is aware of what is going on, must be beside himself with delight (a very hard thing to visualise!) at the realisation that here is someone who can play his concertos at the speeds he himself did and, with the degree of accuracy he attained.

Sgouros's depth of musicianship is <illegible word> and totally convincing. Indeed, his playing style could be described as "quiet" - to look at, at any rate.

At times we could have done with more tone from the piano - the orchestra overpowered it in big climaxes and also, strangely enough, in the first few minutes. Then, I must say, I could have done with the great climax to the first movement cadenza being played in the correct rhythm. Those crashing pairs of chords in alternating high and low registers did not come out evenly and, for a good 20 bars or so, the time signature might have been 12/8(?) rather than 4/4.

I must repeat, though, that this was a phenomenal performance. And Sgouros then played three encores as if they were the first things he had played that evening.

The roving - and I mean roving - television camera on the platform was an unbelievable disturbance. One wonders how anyone could conceive that in ordering such a thing they would not destroy the audience's chance for total concentration.


INSTINCTIVE QUALITY SETS PIANIST APART

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN, 1987

By: DEREK MOORE MORGAN

Young Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros demonstrated at the Concert Hall on Saturday evening that he possesses at least one extra factor not usually within the grasp of international competition winners.

His playing is instinctive to a remarkable degree, and does not bear the unmistakable stamp of his teachers.

The keyboard stance is quietly perfect, and his approach to the music unassuming, with no trace of the flamboyant virtuoso.

Playing of integrity and maturity rather than overpowering brilliance showed to the full in Liszt's A major Concerto, and Sgouros correctly placed the emphasis of his interpretation on the work's quieter sections, delivered unfailingly with a beautifully rounded touch quality.

Here, and in Tchaikovsky's Concert Fantasy, conductor Vladimir Verbitsky and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra gave the soloist full support.

Sgouros squeezed the last expressive drop from the Fantasy's calmer moments, and clean brilliance here and in his final extra piece was delivered with awesome certainty.

One hopes that this unusually gifted performer may remain unspoilt by his over-eulogistic publicity.

The volatile Verbitsky seemed determined to hypnotise his willing audience from the start with sheer speed.

His now almost obligatory Russian and Ludmilla Overture streaked through the Concert Hall, managing to get even faster in the coda.

Thereafter it was the colourful delights of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, with brilliant violins led by Robert Cooper.

Effective woodwind voices added to the colour and gaiety, culminating in a frenetic finale.


A YOUNG MAN OBSESSED WITH MUSIC

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, TUE 24 JAN 1989, Page 12

By: STEPHEN KIRBY 

Gifted Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros is master of the ivory - but what is he really like?

STEPHEN KIRBY reports

THE image of the crisply attired concert pianist Dimitris Sgouros, poised at the ivory ready to enchant, is one with which many discerning concert goers will be familiar. It seemed, then, an interesting challenge to probe beneath the exterior of the world renowned pianist. Does he ever feel that life has passed him by? Does he ever yearn, as might an Australian 19 year old, to flee the concert hall and throw himself into the tumultuous surf? The answer, it would seem, is no.

When you pry behind the persona of the polished musician, you simply find another polished musician. But this is no more than one might have expected; after all, as the film Dimitris at 14 revealed, this was a boy whose hands unconsciously manipulated an imaginary keyboard even when he was supposed to be sunbathing. This extraordinary obsession with music has led to a career which has already dwarfed many contemporary pianists. As a result, the promoter has an unusual problem - how to accommodate all the superlatives.

At his tender age, Sgouros has gained the sort of reviews most pianists would kill for. In what amounted to a virtual laying on of hands, the dying Rubinstein heard him play and called him "the best pianist I have ever heard". (Sgouros himself said modestly, "I have been lucky enough to have already had many special moments in my career, but I think that was one of the most memorable".)

Rostropovich, who conducted him at the age of 12 in Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, called him a "miracle - a creation from God". On his first tour here in 1987, critics competed with each other to find new superlatives: "a rare musical soul", "staggering", "the pianist one had been waiting for all one's life" - even "the critic is left searching for words to do it justice".

In what is a first for the tour of a classical performer in Australia, promoter Michael Edgley has released a CD of Sgouros's 1987 solo performances here in Melbourne (MEI-CD-42427-A). What those of us lucky to have heard him two years ago probably remember best is the great romantic verve and seemingly effortless ease of his playing. Those qualities certainly appear clearly in this recording, particularly in Chopin's Fantasy in F Minor and Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques. The CD also shows his breadth of style and his great classical control, perhaps best displayed in Beethoven's 32 Variations in C Minor.

Since 1987 Sgouros has simply added to his already massive global reputation with performances around the world. In Athens last September he gave his first performance with Russia's Yevgeni Svetlanov and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra as a small contribution to glasnost.

I spoke to him by phone in Athens last week and found him well mannered to a fault. His musical tastes are eclectic: "I do have favorites and I'm playing several on this tour. But I think performing music is like being an actor. In order to do his best work for the public, an actor must try to like whatever part he is playing, so if I am performing a piece, I am determined to like it. So I am very fond of the late romantics, but then I also love playing Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. As for the modern repertoire - it depends what you mean by modern. Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartok, yes - but perhaps we can no longer consider them as moderns. I am still coming to terms with the more extreme moderns, but there are some composers, such as Cage, whose works I enjoy performing."

Sgouros also has a "passionate interest" in Verdi and Puccini operas (he also is said to hero worship Maria Callas, one of the few Greeks to have made a similar impression on world music). So I asked him whether the lyrical and dramatic qualities of these works had left any influence on his playing. "It's hard to explain; in a way I think all music is singing. For a pianist technique is important, of course, but it is the singing I want to bring out in the music I play. And now we have these very good recordings of the great vocal operas - Bellini, Verdi, Puccini - it is possible to learn from them." His wide-ranging tastes in music extend to performers as well. "I think you can learn something from all the good pianists, because they all have different personalities, but my favorite would have to be the great older pianists - particularly Horowitz and Richter. And Liszt - I know that sounds strange because obviously it's not possible to have heard him play, but it is possible to be influenced by the impression of his playing you can derive from his music."

And, presumably for mere relaxation, Sgouros studies mathematics at Athens University. "I have to admit that my music tends to cut into my study time." As a final demonstration of his perfect manners, Sgouros declared that he was "very much looking forward to seeing Australia again. The schedule will allow me time for sight-seeing, and since it is summer this time, I'm sure the weather will be much better." Given the very great pleasure he will undoubtedly bring to thousands in Australia, one can only hope he is right.


** Such was the demand for the 1987 Melbourne recital CD reviewed above, that Dimitris Sgouros recorded a second Australian album in 1989 with live performances of Chopin and Liszt culled from his Melbourne Concert Hall and Sydney Opera House appearances.  This second album has been released on cassette, LP and CD 

 

LP edition

 

Cassette edition

 

CD edition

 

Some of the performances featured in the 1987 and 1989 albums are now available for free downloading from http://www.sgourosmp3.com

 


WASO IN THE LIMELIGHT

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN, 2 FEBRUARY 1989

By: DEREK MOORE MORGAN
 
CONCERT:  DIMITRIS SGOUROS (piano) with the WASO and VERBITSKY (conductor)
Perth Concert Hall, February 1

Wednesday's program devoted its entire second half to the pianistic mastery of Dimitris Sgouros, but the evening started with the limelight firmly on conductor Vladimir Verbitsky and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (concert master Robert Cooper).

Their Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony essayed dramatic and emotional heights on the grand scale in a performance which had tremendous conviction and impressive tautness of ensemble.

Verbitsky set the pace in the opening movement, with its powerful brass climaxes and stirring repetitions of the fanfare motive which lies at this movement's heart.

Later movements featured melancholy, tender and sweeping melodies, with the noisy and exuberant finale's onrush unleashed right on the heels of the previous movement, to great effect.

Starting any romantic symphony from cold is a tall order, but the orchestra coped excellently, with its increased numbers paying obvious dividends.

Perhaps the most outstanding impression of Sgouros' playing of the solo part in the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 was his attention to the work's lyrical and dramatic elements.

This is far from being merely a display piece, and the young soloist had its measure all the way, showing an acute awareness of its musical needs.

His accompaniments to solo orchestral themes were noteworthy for their sensitivity, and the slow movement's appealing melodies made a great impression, while the finale's verve and brilliance showed to glittering effect.

Keyboard clarity never faltered, however hot the pace, with orchestra and conductor collaborating to an unusual degree throughout the concerto, which culminated in a powerful and long, drawn-out conclusion.

This young man's rare quality of pianism embraces a huge range of virtuosity, invariably tempered by sensitivity, and this shows especially in this extra solos.

The occasion was notable for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra's numerical increase, which in its turn led to a more robust and flexible sound.

 

Photos: With Vladimir Verbitsky - rehearsal and performance of the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto in Perth Concert Hall

 

 

 

Fine dining: Sgouros and Maestro Verbitsky sample Perth culinary delights

 


FACE TO FACE WITH AN UNSPOILED GENIUS

SUN HERALD, 05 FEB 1989, Page 48

By: ALAN JONES

IF those who ought to know can even be partially believed, I met a genius late last week.

As arranged, early Thursday evening I waited in the foyer of the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney for the child piano prodigy who had, by 17, become, according to the great cellist and conductor Rostropovich "a miracle -a creation from God".

In circumstances such as this, one conjures up all sorts of images.

They were soon to be shattered.

Out of the lift, at 100 miles an hour, like an errant schoolboy looking under threat of punishment for his lost homework assignment, stepped a 19-year-old who looked only 19.

He thrust out a hand and said simply, without any affectation: "I'm Dimitris Sgouros."

Yet the very mention of the name now stirs every music critic around the world either into superlatives or into an admission of linguistic inadequacy in assessing Sgouros's musical worth.

One critic in 1987 said: "If you were allowed to use the word 'genius' only once in a lifetime, you would probably be safe to use it on the 17-year-old Greek pianist, Dimitris Sgouros."

Only under questioning did he volunteer unwillingly and embarrassedly that he graduated from Athens Conservatory at 13 with a Gold Medal; that he graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London a year later, with the highest marks ever awarded in the academy's history; that he never practises (said with a laugh); that he knows all the operas of Verdi and Puccini off by heart ("I have to if I want to be a conductor").

When the formal side of the interview was over, he resumed his free spirit, boundlessly so.

Hotel porters and staff moved about him oblivious of the fact that they were in the presence of someone whose consummate mastery of technical skill may not be heard again.

"Which CDs of mine have you got?" he asked.

I had to admit I couldn't remember.

Even if I had been able to couch my embarrassment in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, or German, instead of English, he would still have learnt of my Philistine memory.

He speaks them all, fluently.

I kept thinking that here was a young man more gifted and less temperamental, more assured, yet less extraverted about his ability, than any I had met in any field.

"Time to eat," he said. "I'm starved."

Good 19-year-old talk.

We were joined for dinner by Reuben Fineberg, classical music director of Michael Edgley International, who bring such fabulous talent to us so often.

We sat next to a table of smokers.

Newcastle City Council, determined to ban smoking in its restaurants, would have found no fault with the Intercontinental.

We moved to a non-smoker's room. Dimitris confessed to smoking, sometimes, even though dad is a doctor.

There is a pride in his parents, a ready acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by the rest of his non-musical family.

He has a 13-year-old brother, he told me, "who has no parents".

He was not embarrassed to effortlessly relate the sacrifices necessary for success and the good fortune he enjoyed in having parents who made them.

"I don't do anything," he said, "just play".

"Mum does it all - contracts, recording studios and bookings."

Mum was too tired to join us for dinner.

The waiter arrived.

For entree, "A pasta?", Dimitris mused aloud.

"A small helping?", asked an obliging waiter.

"Why not a large one?" said the 19-year-old with an appetite that matches his genius.

Then followed the biggest hamburger, a fried egg atop, and everything that normally goes with it.

"Why don't you eat the salad?" I asked.

"Can't, I'm on a diet."

We talked about everything from the Olympic Games to Sydney's pollution and he was interested in the lot.

German audiences are the best in the world, Horowitz was better than Rubinstein, and the Olympic Games should be held in Athens, but only for the Greeks, he said, rolling his head back and laughing.

If this is genius, and if this is the unspoiled way in which it expresses itself, may Greece send us more of its like.


DIMITRIS SGOUROS: A PIANIST OF PERFECTION

COURIER-MAIL, MON 06 FEB 1989, Page 019

By: BARBARA HEBDEN
Source: QNP

DIMITRIS Sgouros: Pianist, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, CD (MEI Records)

DIMITRIS Sgouros commands an immaculate technique, but nothing that he does is merely pianistic. This compact disc, recorded by the ABC in the Melbourne Concert Hall in 1987 for MEI (Michael Edgley International), is splendidly recorded. It has excellent annotations by Jonathan Cook and if anything is even better played.

Sgouros, the brilliant young Greek pianist, has pondered the significance of Beethoven's directions and the 32 Variations in C Minor are an example of the finest playing, which touches directly the composer's creative nerve. The Fantasy in F Minor Op. 49 and Nocturne in C Minor Op. 48 No 1 have poetry as well as virtuosity. Sgouros' Chopin interpretation is filled with the most exquisite and exciting effects.

His playing of Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques Op. 13 is extremely searching, as he matches piano techniques to the demands of the several etudes or variations. Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No 1 is a vehicle for the pianist's technical brilliance and yielding romantic warmth.

Sgouros will perform at the Concert Hall, Performing Arts Complex, on February 14 with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Verbitsky, and in a solo recital on February 16.


POWER, PERFECTION AND RARE POTENTIAL

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 06 FEB 1989, Page 14

By: FRED BLANKS

CONSIDERING that Dimitris Sgouros has 45 piano concertos at his fingertips, it seemed distinctly reactionary that he was asked to play Tchaikovsky in B Flat Minor at his only Sydney concert with orchestra (in Melbourne, he plays Brahms 2 and Rachmaninov 2).

End of quibbling. The justification came with the performance.

He played that hoary crowd-pleaser as marvellously as his international reputation and his 1987 appearances here have entitled us to expect.

It is practically lopsided or superfluous to heap special praise on any single aspect of his playing. All of it is so meritorious, and so wonderfully balanced.

If I state that he played Tchaikovsky with the luminous clarity usually thought ideal for Mozart (whom Tchaikovsky adored), this might imply a restraint of power.

No such thing: this was pianism of tremendous power where appropriate, and elsewhere a touch as delicate as the landing of a butterfly on a petal.

The cadenzas blazed like fireworks; poetic lyricism motivated the pastoral section of the andantino.

Once or twice, an instantaneous mutual adjustment of tempo between the soloist and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, directed by Stuart Challender, became more noticeable than it would have had there been more rehearsal, but otherwise this was a perfect collaboration.

The last memorable reading of this concerto to have been given here was the exuberantly hectic one by Bernd Glemser in the finals of the 1985 Piano Competition.

Dimitris Sgouros was less volcanic, more intrinsically musical. That his technique was immaculate goes without saying.

The first half of this concert also deserves acclaim.

Stuart Challender has already established great empathy with the SSO; if he needs to reinforce it by a visual emission of energy, so be it.

Untidy entries, not so long ago the scourge of the orchestra, were all but eliminated.

The brilliantly orchestrated Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov had its flamenco Cossacks pounding out their rhythms with exciting verve, and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, which has become the Swan Lake of the 20th century with regard to musical familiarity, was on the one hand polished and disciplined, and on the other imbued with a spiralling tension.

But the chief distinction of this concert came by way of a potential Gold Medal pianist.


NO IVORY TOWER FOR TOP PIANIST

SUN, FRI 10 FEB 1989, Page 024

By: K. HILL

THE great Arthur Rubinstein called him the greatest pianist in the world. Famous Soviet musician Rostropovich hailed him as "a miracle." But 19-year-old Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros says he doesn't listen when people call him as a genius - "I just concentrate on playing". His brief, but extraordinary, career has taken him to Carnegie Hall, New York, the Royal Festival Hall, London, and, for the second time, the Concert Hall, Melbourne. Dimitris accepts his many accolades with a shrug: "I think I have musical talent, but I'm not that special.".

He began playing the piano when he was six. Eighteen months later he was offered a scholarship at the Athens Conservatorium of Music. He graduated in 1982, and went on to study mathematics at Athens University, in which he showed outstanding ability. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, German and his native Greek and has memorised more than 45 concertos and hundreds of solo works. Despite all these achievements, Dimitris believes there is room for improvement, and hopes one day to become a conductor.


TCHAIKOVSKY WELL SERVED

AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, 10 FEB 1989, Page 11

By: KEN KEALEY

IT is not uncommon to categorise extraordinarily impressive musical performers as primarily musician or technician. When Dimitris Sgouros was first heard here as a 17-year-old in 1987, he was a phenomenon, if not strictly a prodigy. But a few knowledgeable people (although not the critics) were inclined to marvel only at his technique.

Now a mature young man of 19, he is an artist whose future development is guaranteed by his present achievement.

Sgouros began his second Australian tour under Michael Edgley's aegis with Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. The Sydney Town Hall was full on February 4 for his concert in association with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stuart Challender.

By exemplifying the paradox "less is more" in the Tchaikovsky, he withdrew his formidable technical prowess from consideration of which area constitutes his primary gift. All the notes in their correct places, with due emphasis, were part of the data, the given. From that starting point he began to make music unostentatiously, but with a deep, committed, disciplined passion.

Those who have not heard Sgouros play may be forgiven if they regard him as a superior Liberace, in the way that many thought of Gigli as a higher grade Mario Lanza. The truth could hardly be more different. I know no first rate pianist who is more still in performance. Perhaps Tamas Vasary in the 1960s used his elbows as little, but he swayed occasionally in the manner of normal pianists. Not so Sgouros.

The playing is as firmly centred as the physical presence. (If he were not seated one could call it his stance.) There was a good deal less torque generated between orchestra and soloist in the opening bars than one hears in any other performance of this concerto; none of the rocking sensation induced by the big piano chords.

If Sgouros had simply failed to meet standard expectations, the performance would have been significantly less impressive. What he did that was special was to treat a concert hall warhorse as though it were real music. He explored the cadenzas as though they were by Schumann - in the style of Tchaikovsky, of course. He raised the stakes in the work's less showy passages, until they were at least as important, and thus as memorable as all the bits that everyone can whistle. Tchaikovsky was well served.

I suspect that this concerto would not be the one that Sgouros would take to a desert island, if he were allowed only one or two. On the other hand, if I were marooned and told to take one performance of this work, it might well be his that I would want to live with.

Stuart Challender and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra were more than accompanists; they supplied the colour, much of it refracted from the piano's pure shafts, and they added a good deal of the energy essential to this concerto, the score of which contains no surprises.

A feel for rubato that seemed very like what one reads of the 19th Century virtuosi occasionally found the soloist infinitesimally behind the beat. On other occasions not even the looming presence of Stuart Challender, turned almost wholly towards the piano, was able to bring to chording the precision of the recording studio. These technical points, tiny blemishes perhaps, really identify a performance like this as live in every sense.

The orchestra was supreme in Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, and progressed after an indifferent start to a commanding reading of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. It is not to demean the orchestra's contribution to a memorable evening when I confess that I can hardly wait to hear Sgouros in recital. Most of his appearances around the country this month and next are solo recitals.


VERBITSKY SHOWS HIS MASTERY OF BALANCE

THE AGE, MON 13 FEB 1989

By: KENNETH HINCE

"Sgouros' touch was veiled and reserved... he used the velvet glove rather than the metallic clang..."

    "... First-rate"


COLORFUL AND SUBTLE SURPRISES

COURIER-MAIL, SAT 18 FEB 1989, Page 024

By: BARBARA HEBDEN
Source: QNP

From time to time we are privileged to hear pianism which creates an entirely new sense of wonder and enrichment. And for those who feel that there are only so many black and white keys, or a finite number of sounds to work with, Dimitris Sgouros' recital on Thursday night must have come as a colorful and infinitely subtle surprise.

Busoni's transcription of Bach's Chaconne in D Minor from the Partita for Unaccompanied Violin loses nothing of the grandeur of the original music, and it was this majesty that Sgouros conveyed in a powerful performance combining dynamism and tension. Schumann's Carnaval was so vividly characterised that it became a brilliant balletic panorama. Dazzlingly vivacious in the more extravert moments, Sgouros was marvellously lyrical in the miniatures, Chopin Eusebius, where his beautiful tone proved an asset. Technically perfect, he has yet to completely probe the soul of Schumann's music.

The legendary atmosphere in Chopin's Ballade No 1 in G Minor was immediately created in delicate opening bars later transformed into outbursts of passionate declamation and triumphant song. There was no superficial charisma here. Sgouros' quality is reserved solely for the business of piano playing; his virtuosity is so remarkable because it is so musical.

Balakirev, the guiding force of the ""Russian Five'', breathes nationalism in his piano fantasy, Islamey, based on Caucasian dances and Armenian song. Sgouros' interpretation of Islamey was a tour de force of turbulent romanticism. This pianist seems to approach each task with a diligence and interpretative  freedom that is wholly exceptional.


PROGRAM COULD BE BETTER

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 18 MAR 1989, Page 90

By: FRED BLANKS

TO SAY Dimitris Sgouros is a marvellous pianist for a 19-year-old, as some people do, is to add an irrelevancy to an obvious fact.

Age has nothing to do with it, and in any case, musicians, unlike wine, do not necessarily get better with seniority.

It is just possible that Sgouros is now at his best. He may eventually find the piano restrictive, and follow the likes of Barenboim, Bishop-Kovacevich and Ashkenazy, turning to the baton.

Meanwhile, he radiates both satisfaction and excitement. His playing had an element of daring in it for the Liszt sonata, which he polished off in 27 instead of the usual 30 minutes; yet there was no feeling of impatience or coolness, and the digital fleetness spoke of sparkle, not blur.

Gaspard de la Nuit, by Ravel, requires an interchange of virtuosity and delicacy; both were abundantly present as Ondine turned to a scintillating shower, the bell tolled obsessively for Le Gibet, and Scarbo showed mischief and menace. Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise could have allowed themselves more romantic liberty.

My only disappointment came with the programs themselves; they were excessively conventional, looking much like a syllabus for some piano competition. That might have been the promoter's fault, in aid of full houses

Next time - soon, we hope - Dimitris Sgouros should bring us an ingredient of musical novelty to add to his pianistic prowess.

We may not hear him again this year, but we will see him when he is one of three adjudicators for the David Paul Landa Memorial Piano Scholarship here in May.


EXTRAORDINARY SGOUROS

SUN HERALD, 19 MAR 1989, Page 143

By: Jill Sykes

THE playing of Dimitris Sgouros gets more extraordinary by the minute -and since he is still only 19, every minute counts.

The combination of sensitivity and vigour that he brings to the work of a composer like Chopin gives the music a life of its own. His lightness of touch has a crispness that elevates even the schmaltzy arrangement of one of his encores on Thursday night at the Sydney Opera House. Yet he also brings weight and substance to the keyboard.

His technical virtuosity is not only impressive in itself but a well-honed tool by which his interpretations can be brought more clearly to the listener. It's astonishing to hear the balanced control that his two hands bring to a familiar work, giving the melodic line a clear run through the complex decorative writing around it and shaping the piece so persuasively and intelligibly.

It was a delight to hear him in two recitals that offered a range of musical styles. Bach, even after the Busoni treatment, and Scarlatti obviously aren't as close to his heart, though he delivers them with polished finesse.

Sgouros seems to have more of an empathy with the romance of Chopin, the theatricality of Schumann's Carnaval, the exotica of Balakirev's Islamey and Liszt's exhilarating pyrotechnics mingled with lyrical interludes. This is great concert material, as so many pianists have demonstrated. But when Sgouros plays, it's like hearing them for the first time.

Australian audiences are indebted to Michael Edgley International for bringing Dimitris Sgouros here twice in his formative years. I, for one, can hardly wait for the next stage in his artistic maturity.

Musica Viva, which made a grand start to its concert year with the Monteverdi Choir, kept up the standard in a very different style this week with the Quartetto Beethoven di Roma.

There is an almost tangible feeling of communication between these musicians which gives a special quality of performing vitality to their piano quartet repertoire.

On Tuesday at the Seymour Centre, the program began with youthful compositions by Schubert and Richard Strauss which responded well to the freshness of their approach.

The Strauss Quartet in C minor, completed in the composer's 20th year, was particularly enjoyable for the indications it gave of the individuality that would stamp his larger compositions in the future. The richness and vigour of the opening movement was matched by music of translucent beauty in the third.

The Schumann Quartet in E major could be regarded as a more accomplished piece of writing that emerged with a well-burnished polish to round off an evening that had many insights to offer.

IT was interesting to sample the Darling Harbour Convention Centre as a concert venue last weekend when the Polish singer, Ewa Demarczyk, gave the first musical performance within in still-unfinished walls.

She is a performer with forceful theatrical power and a voice that ranges from an intimate whisper to a fortissimo roar of passionate intensity. No matter if you didn't understand the language, it was a gripping recital with unusual musicality in the backing group of two pianos, two violins, cello, bass, guitar and percussion.

Of course, it was all delivered through amplification, but tests are going to be carried out on the natural acoustics of the venue, which holds up to 3,500 people. If they prove to be good, Sydney might have a more aesthetically appealing alternative to the Entertainment Centre for some of its big musical attractions.


 $70,000 Steinway piano autographed by Dimitris Sgouros - raffle to be drawn by Margaret Whitlam (wife of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam) 


TWO DELIGHTS FOR ORCHESTRA LOVERS

SUN HERALD, 27 MAY 1989, Page 110

By: KEN HEALEY

TEMPERAMENT in prosperity and adversity characterised last week's orchestral music-making.

At the Opera House on Tuesday night the USSR State Symphony Orchestra enjoyed the double good fortune of having Dimitris Sgouros as soloist and a capacity audience of doting fans.

Twenty-four hours later it was the turn of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the same hall to show fortitude in twin adversities, which caused the concert to run over time by half an hour.

Sgouros and Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto seemed made for each other. The Greek teen-aged phenomenon made one of the most popular concertos in the repertoire seem new in many respects.

Gone was the stillness of his performance of Tchaikovsky No.1 with the Sydney Orchestra in February. He found the temperament that the music demanded, injecting passion into his always note-perfect playing, and never reducing the work to the thumping display piece it can so easily become.

Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony received from Yevgeni Svetlanov and the orchestra the treatment one would expect for a concerto for orchestra. The usually prodigious brass again demonstrated loudness without distortion of tone or pitch; there was a filigree in sound from the upper woodwinds displaying tantalisingly delicate beauty; the power of the lower strings was again evident.

It was a far more satisfying concert than the Russians' first in Sydney on May 10, and the crowd was ecstatic.

Wednesday was the SSO's night in the Opera House, and it was memorable. After about a quarter of an hour's sweet-toned playing of the first movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto, young German soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann caught the end of his bow under the E string, which stretched and went nearly a tone flat. He stopped and calmly went back to the beginning of the work, ultimately completing an unruffled performance of great lyric beauty.

I confess that the Brahms has a special emotional impact for me, as it was the first of the great violin concertos that I heard. Others play it more strongly than Zimmermann, but I was grateful for the almost feminine singing tone of his Stradivarius, partnered by Stuart Challender, who had the orchestra playing sensitively without self-effacement.

A significant number of subscribers did not return after interval to hear the first performance of David Lumsdaine's Mandala VI. There are passages in the work that would almost confirm the aversion of the conservatives to contemporary music of the "plink plonk" variety. Rhythms and harmonies that are irregular can sound erratic to some ears, but everyone who stayed must have warmed to the static central section which Lumsdaine calls a chorale.

Instead of being propelled forward in a linear movement, the music of the chorale explores a series of textures with varying densities. The effect is of undulation within a kind of stasis.

As though being penalised for keeping the best till last, the orchestra faced another significant delay while the principal oboist replaced a defective instrument before Janacek's wholly marvellous Sinfonietta could start.

Topped and tailed by a brass fanfare of ear-cracking ruggedness, the work transforms itself into a light, delicate proof that agile, deft and refreshing orchestral writing was still issuing from Czechoslovakia in the late 1920s. The Sinfonietta should be compulsory listening for all who think that the tradition ended earlier.

 


WHAT A NIGHT FOR MUSIC LOVERS

CANBERRA TIMES, 28 MAY 1989

By: W. L. HOFFMANN

What a night it was for Canberra music lovers in Llewellyn Hall last night when one of the world's finest pianists joined one of the world's great orchestras in a stunning performance of the world's favourite piano concerto.

The 19-year-old piano virtuoso. Dimitris Sgouros, played with breathtaking brilliance in a realisation of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto in which he was supported by equally brilliant and poetic playing from the visiting USSR State Symphony Orchestra under the dynamic direction of conductor, Vladimir Verbitsky. There was grandeur in the rolling phrases of the great introductory section, followed by a stirring performance of the first movement, this then leading to a warm and poetic unfolding of the central andantino semplice. But it was the final movement which set the performance afire, Sgouros led off at a spanking pace, and his fast octave passages were a marvel to hear for their speed and clarity, while the orchestra matched him by playing Tchaikovsky as only a Russian orchestra can.

The program opened with six Tchaikovsky songs, sung expressively by Bolshoi Opera principal Tamara Sinyavskaya. She has a warm, rich, velvet-toned voice, which particularly suited the well-known None But the Lonely Heart, which opened the set, and the warmly romantic Does the Day Reign?.

The final work of the program was the Symphony No. 1 in D minor of Rachmaninov, a powerful and expressive work. It is an ideal work to show off a fine orchestra, and Verbitsky urged and cajoled playing to match its moods from the 100 players of the USSR State Symphony. The violins of the orchestra were seated as they were in the 19th century the first violins to the conductor's left and the second violins to his right not all lumped together as is usual today. This gave a fine spread of upper string sound, particularly in the warmly romantic third movement. And the stirring finale, with its mounting climaxes, brought this outstanding concert to an exciting conclusion.


SPELLBINDING POWER AND DELICACY

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN, 1 JUNE 1989

By: DEREK MOORE MORGAN
 
USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Yevgeni Svetlanov, pianist Dimitris Sgouros

This was the Tchaikovsky concert with everything - superb singing, pianism, and to crown it all a tremendous corporate orchestral effort.

Tamara Sinyavskaya displayed her opulent contralto voice to carefully controlled advantage in the composer's Six Songs - a voice and orchestra arrangement by Svetlanov.

Hers was an emotion-filled and entirely Russian timbre, showing to great advantage in the finely delineated phrasing of None But The Lonely Heart, Does The Day Reign? ended the cycle with a dynamic, surging sound from singer and players alike.

Sgouros gave an individual and unusually poetic account of the beloved Piano Concerto in B flat minor.

Drama there was too, but it was surprising to hear the cadenza's opening treated with real delicacy.

Fleet-fingered solo work in the andantino's middle portion generated superbly controlled pace and magical clarity. This was followed by great momentum and speed pervading the last movement before a thrilling climax with the broadly sweeping final melody.

This young man's phenomenal technique and emotional gifts showed even more startlingly in extra solos - first with dazzling yet totally controlled pyrotechnics, and later with Chopin's Nocturne in C minor in a slightly warward yet endearing version.

The awesome power and delicacy of this great orchestra was fully revealed with the Symphony No. 5 in E minor.

This endlessly popular romantic masterpiece proved yet again to be an ideal vehicle for orchestral display, coupled with sombre, yet passionate emotional reflection.

Svetlanov's was a vividly Russian interpretation, achieved without a baton, and by leaving the players strictly alone in more obvious passages, he got to the heart of things without a trace of fussy sentimentality.

Headlong tempi in the finale's vivacious allegro and elsewhere displayed boundless energy rising to climaxes of truly staggering proportions.

Russian woodwind sounds strangely coarse to Western ears, but its individual and collective aura intensified this music's character.

Vigorous and finely disciplined brass playing provided brilliant rhythmic support and drive to this edifice, together with beautiful reflective movements for solo horn.

The string section's overflowing ranks played with tremendous fire and unfaltering discipline.

A spellbinding performance, indeed.


WORLD AT HIS FINGERTIPS & ENTHRALLING CONCERT

NEW ZEALAND HERALD & WANGANUI CHRONICLE, 5, 13 & 16 SEP 1991

Dimitris Sgouros at Auckland's Aotea Centre


A PIANIST OF STRATOSPHERIC QUALITY

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 19 SEP 1991, Page 14

By: FRED BLANKS
 

SENSATIONS are, by their very nature, hard acts to repeat. But exceptional cases exist. The appearances of pianist Dimitris Sgouros come under that heading.

His first performances here in 1987 at the age of 17 made everyone who heard him sit up and marvel at this so far unknown, but obviously sensational, pianist from Greece. Now he is in Sydney for the third time, having turned 22 last month, no longer unknown, and once again able to transport an audience into paroxysms of enthusiasm.

The important factor is, of course, that he does it not by some showman's sleight-of-hand, but by the brand of spiritually and technically astonishing musicianship that marks great artists.

His performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.3 in D Minor Opus 30 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, under Russian conductor Vladimir Verbitsky, had every possible merit.

The work lends itself to the kind of pianistic mountaineering that we associate with the Brahms concertos, a sense of Herculean struggle that reaches its climax in the cadenzas; but there are also stretches of lyricism which call for the most gently poetic keyboard caresses.

Sgouros had massive power where needed, never in danger (to which many pianists succumb in this concerto) of being submerged by the orchestra, yet his quiet passages traced a filigree lacework of rare sensitivity.

If hearing this musician was a rare experience, it was not the only joy of a very satisfying concert.

Verbitsky took the Classical Symphony by Prokofiev rather more slowly than most conductors, and though once or twice there was a lack of volume contrast, the resultant clarity of line and inner parts was a tremendous asset.

His vision of Dante's Inferno during the symphonic fantasy Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky was a little restrained until all hell broke loose with the last bars, but apart from some awkward woodwind notes, this was also a performance marked by a fine balance and dramatic effect.

Great performers, indeed.


SHOWMEN BRING A NOTE OF GRANDEUR

THE AUSTRALIAN, 20 SEPTEMBER 1991

By: LAURIE STRACHAN
 
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Dimitris Sgouros, piano
Vladimir Verbitsky, conductor
Sydney Opera House

If there ever was such a time as the Good Old Days of music, then it must surely have been a little like Wednesday night's Great Performers concert.

The key word here is performers, for both soloist Dimitris Sgouros and conductor Vladimir Verbitsky proved themselves performers in the grand tradition, able to whip up that sense of the gala occasion that turns a concert into something special.

Sgouros is a remarkable pianist and it's no sort of criticism to say his playing of the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto showed a machine-like precision. This was evident not only in his ability to produce huge torrents of accurately articulated notes but also in the rock-solid way he produced clear and forceful sounds from a keyboard struck with what appeared to be absolute security. The sound was not huge, there have been louder pianists in the Opera House Concert Hall, but it was strong and to the point.

Allied to this was an intelligent way with the rubato necessary to bring Rachmaninov's autumnal romanticism to exciting life; this may be the stuff of which Hollywood was made, but even Hollywood got it right sometimes.

Verbitsky and the SSO went all the way with him; this was the real thing, the often spoken of but not so often heard dialogue between soloist and orchestra.

Another dialogue, between conductor and musicians, was going on at the same time and, in fact, had made itself evident from the very start of the concert. Verbitsky has an exaggerated way with gestures, a touch of the Hollywoods again perhaps, but the orchestra seemed to like what he was doing.

Whatever it was, they gave a brilliantly rich performance of Prokofiev's First Symphony, the Classical.

[...]


SGOUROS SEEKS A DEEPER TRUTH

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 26 SEP 1991, Page 12

By: ROGER COVELL

THIS was an audience determined to see as well as hear. The eastern boxes in the concert hall, with their clear view of the pianist's hands at the keyboard, were relatively full, those on the western side almost empty.

The same was true of the seats in the choir stalls and the upper circle. And why not? Dimitris Sgouros is a pianist who has dazzled listeners with velocity and fire and drawn a public much more diverse than the norm, a public eager to marvel and be thrilled.

Yet there was nothing in his manner at the keyboard that came under the heading of overt showmanship.

The listeners who crowded towards the eastern side of the hall saw no head-tossing, no triumphantly raised talons, no acts of finicky magnification; simply a poised young man whose engagement with difficult music resulted in a minimum of bodily movement.

Which is not to say that his interpretative insights were always at the level of his unaffected technical control: his playing of Beethoven's F Minor Sonata (the Appassionata) Opus 57 began vividly but dwindled into a rather pale characterisation of the drama of theme and key in the first movement.

The performance of the second movement started sonorously and nobly but seemed almost to retreat from the brooding opportunities offered by the transition to the finale; and the finale, though brilliant, appeared neutrally active.

Five of Liszt's Transcendental Studies seemed to promise Sgouros opportunities for more decisively planned contrasts. The promise was fulfilled up to a point and there were superb moments of bravura (including some of those Lisztian intersections of rapid hand movements that make a skilled pianist look rather like a professional card-shuffler).

Curiously, however, the lyrical and peaceful studies carried more conviction than those that were rapid and feverish.

Sgouros may be going through a difficult phase in which, after astounding his listeners with youthful certainties, he searches for deeper meanings and has to be prepared to wait for them to come to him.

The notion received rebuttal as well as support from his performance of the complete set of 24 Chopin Preludes, Opus 28, which admirably made up the second half of the program.


SPELLBINDING FROM SGOUROS

THE BULLETIN, 3 OCTOBER 1991

By: RUTH GURNER

Young Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros drew a huge audience for his recital at the Gold Coast Arts Centre earlier this week.

This young man plays with great commitment. There is a deliberation and an attention to detail that remarkably still allows through the passion, as was heard in his opening piece, the wonderful Beethoven piano sonata The Appassionata.

There was the beautiful control of the opening passage, making the fire of the following section all the motre effective.

The listeners could not contain themselves and applauded spontaneously at the end of the first movement, something not recommended because it could destroy the concentration of a lesser performer.

However, Sgouros maintained his total involvement in the music and held his audience in later pieces, making the atmosphere last until the final vibration of the strings had stopped and all sound ebbed away causing total silence, before he moved at the piano.

Two Chopin pieces followed, again showing his skill blending technique with sensitive, poetic playing which can only gain in depth as he matures.

The Liszt Transcendental Study No 11 was delicately etched, rising in dynamic and power as it progressed.

He held his audience spellbound as he negotiated the pianistic gymnastics of the last item, Liszt's Reminiscences Of Bellini's Norma, an awesome conglomeration of the operatic numbers.

The virtuoso pianist Liszt dumbfounded audiences in his day with this composition.

Our brilliant young pianist did the same, his physical stamina and sheer wrist strength and flexibility dazzling the audience and, despite two delightful encores, left them wanting more - surely an excellent way to finish a successful concert.


SGOUROS GENEROUS WITH HIS AUDIENCE

THE AGE, OCTOBER 1991

By: CLIVE O'CONNELL

Dimitris Sgouros, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conductor Vladimir Verbitsky.

With typical generosity, the young Greek pianist played two highly popular concertos in his only appearance with the Melbourne Symphony, generous because either one would have satisfied any audience.

Sgouros refrained from thundering through the A minor concerto by Grieg, choosing an attractively modest and moderate approach to a work that has suffered more than most at the hands of pianists who take the first movement cadenza as an interpretative starting point, sacrificing restraint for Lisztian thunder.

The continuing problem with the performance revolved around the meshing of soloist and orchestra at climactic moments, specifically in the outer movements where Verbitsky tended to bring in the full orchestra a fraction late.

Beethoven's E flat concerto, the 'Emperor', worked better in terms of ensemble, but then it operates on a less flimsy and poetic framework than the Grieg and it offers more of an "argument". Sgouros gave a reading that was expressive and unflustered, giving the lengthy paragraphs their due weight and room to breathe. One has heard more robust readings of this work but very few as even or as cleanly delivered.

The night began with Tchaikovsky's 'Francesca da Rimini', driven powerfully by Verbitsky in the outer sections, not the most <illegible word> of performances but memorable for its vigor. The tone poem, if it did nothing else, served to highlight the spacious and satisfying work of the visiting pianist - now on his third tour and proving more satisfying and impressive with each visit.

 


OLYMPUS SCALED BY SGOUROS

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN, 14 OCTOBER 1991

By: NEVILLE COHN

RECITAL  Dimitris Sgouros, Piano. Perth Concert Hall.

Hardly anyone - and that includes some of the world's most celebrated pianists - is courageous and accomplished enough to include Liszt's Transcendental Studies in a recital. In fact, for quite some time after they were first published in their definitive version, it was only the composer who was able to play them successfully. They are some of the most ferociously difficult pieces ever written, demanding, as they do, massive reserves of stamina and fingers which know no fears. On both these counts, 22-year-old Dimitris Sgouros was triumphant, negotiating with the nonchalance of mastery, the kind of hurdles before which most other musicians would quail and retreat. But there was far more than mere technical wizardry to Sgouros' account of these studies.

It was his ability unerringly to reveal the interior mood of each of these taxing pieces that raised his performance to a quite exalted category of excellence, the kind of playing, I'd imagine, that prompted Rostropovich to call this extraordinary young pianist "a miracle, a creation of God."

Certainly, in his ability to convey the diaphanous murmurings of Feux follets and to release the raging demon that lurks behind the pages of Etude in A minor, Sgouros scaled Olympus.

His account of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata, on the other hand, although admirable in many ways, was by contrast, an excursion through musical foothills.

Whereas the Liszt Etudes were presented with the kind of panache which swept all before it and made one feel as they had been specially written for him Sgouros seemed less than entirely in sympathy with the stylistic demands of the Appassionata. Although faithful to the score notationally, the playing lacked that sense of absolute authority which informed Sgouros' presentation of the Etudes.

The 24 preludes which comprise Chopin's opus 28 received somewhat uneven handling. In some of these miniatures, Sgouros was peerless, as in superbly declamatory and dramatic accounts of Nos 18 and 22, and a surging, passionate exposition of the Prelude in F sharp minor. The Prelude in B flat minor, though, was played so quickly that the beat weakened, with the consequent lessening of impact. And curiously for a pianist with such a phenomenally articulate and controlled left hand, the accompanying figurations in the Prelude in G were disappointingly blurred.

No matter, there were many other rewards, not least the encores, which included some achingly beautiful Scriabin and a dazzling, wondrously light-fingered treatment of Chopin's Minute Waltz.

If this recital is anything to go by - and particularly in relation to the Liszt bracket - there is little doubt that Dimitris Sgouros is successfully making the often hazardous transition from child prodigy to mature master of the keyboard.


 

Above: With Bob Hawke (Prime Minister of Australia) and Reuben Fineberg

Below: Group photo with Bob Hawke

 

 

LEFT: Sgouros with Paul Keating (Treasurer & future Prime Minister of Australia) and wife Annita

RIGHT: Sgouros with Australia's Governor-General Bill Hayden in Government House

 

 
With Ray Martin on Australian television (Channel 9)

 

 

 

 

With Jana Wendt on the Australian TV program "A Current Affair" - interview & burning rubber with a Porsche in Perth!

 

   
With Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the BBC Orchestra

 


 

Performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto at the Aotea Centre, Auckland



 

 

THE SGOUROS PHENOMENON

By DENIS CONDON


(1987 Sydney Morning Herald)

RECITAL PROGRAM MONDAY 27th JUNE 1987
BEETHOVEN 32 Variations in C minor
CHOPIN Fantasy in F Minor
LISZT Mephisto Waltz
LISZT Paysage (Transcendental Etude No 3)
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme of Paganini Books 1 & 2

 


(1989 Sydney Morning Herald)

RECITAL PROGRAM FRIDAY 10th MARCH 1989 RECITAL PROGRAM SUNDAY 12th MARCH 1989
BACH/BUSONI Chaconne CHOPIN Ballade No 4 in F minor
CHOPIN Ballade No 1 in G minor CHOPIN Sonata No 3 in B minor
BALAKIREV Islamey LISZT Venice and Naples
SCHUMANN Carnaval LISZT Concert Paraphrase on the Waltz from Gounod's "Faust"

 


(1991 Sydney Morning Herald)

RECITAL PROGRAM TUESDAY 24th SEPT. 1991 RECITAL PROGRAM SUNDAY 6th OCT. 1991
BEETHOVEN "Appassionata" Sonata BEETHOVEN Sonata No 30 Op 109
LISZT 5 Transcendental Studies CHOPIN Scherzo No 2 in B flat
CHOPIN The 24 Preludes CHOPIN Nocturne in C minor
  CHOPIN Polonaise No 6 in A flat
  LISZT Harmonies du Soir
  LISZT "Norma" Fantasy

 


 
 Steinway and Sgouros, triumphs of technique and musical creativity 

 

CD of live recordings from the Melbourne Concert Hall, 10th and 24th July 1987

 

Shown above is just a small sampling of the promotional materials surrounding Dimitris Sgouros' tours of Australia.

Along with the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra, Darwin he has also performed in regional centres like the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise), Townsville, Penrith, Wollongong, Newcastle, Geelong, etc..

 

 A few TV spots from Australia:- 

 

 

 

 
Steinway & Sons - Rebuilding the Legend Exhibition
 STEINWAY GRAND PIANO NO. 1 (1836) 
 $3 million replica - Worldwide Tribute Tour 

 

March 2008, Perth Concert Hall - exhibition of $3 million replica of the first Steinway piano built in 1836
"The original instrument has been painstakingly recreated by renowned Flemish pianoforte builder Chris Maene"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"The Perfect Tribute To A Great Legend"
 
(photos courtesy of cvxmelody)
 

 DIMITRIS SGOUROS - Steinway & Sons 150 Years Commemorative Double CD Album (1853-2003) 

Patron: Vladimir Ashkenazy

"It gives me great pleasure to commemorate this significant milestone..."

- Henry Z. Steinway

"The sound is unmistakable..."


(from an interview in Greek - February 15, 2006)

Σ.Δ. Όντως! Μέσα σε όλα αυτά, σου έχει συμβεί ποτέ κάποιο ευτράπελο γεγονός άξιο αναφοράς;

Δ.Σ. Πρόχειρα στο μυαλό μου έρχεται το εξής: Σε μια από τις προγραμματισμένες περιοδείες μου στην Αυστραλία, ο τότε συνεργάτης μας, μας ζήτησε να πραγματοποιήσω και μια εμφάνιση στην Ταζμανία. Μη γνωρίζοντας ούτε οι δικοί μου ούτε βέβαια εγώ την ύπαρξη του μεγάλου αυτού νησιού απέναντι, πιστεύοντας ότι πρόκειται για τυπογραφικό λάθος στην πρόσκληση απαντήσαμε: Τι δουλεία έχει ο Δημήτρης σε περιοδεία της Αυστραλίας να πάει να παίξει στην ΤΑΝΖΑΝΙΑ;

Ακόμα γελάμε από αυτό μας το λάθος!

 

Interviewer:  Do you have any amusing anecdotes to relate?

Dimitris Sgouros:  In one of our scheduled tours of Australia, our management proposed a concert appearance in Tasmania. Since neither my family nor I had heard of this large island, we thought it was a typo and responded: "Why on earth would Dimitris touring Australia want to play in TANZANIA?

Of course it seems hilarious now!


 


 

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