DIMITRIS SGOUROS' DEBUT LP RECORDINGS

 
Brahms & Schumann
Dimitris Sgouros
1983/1984 EMI Angel

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Notes from LP Jacket:

ANGEL DEBUT RECORDING - DIMITRIS SGOUROS - BRAHMS / SCHUMANN

With this album Angel Records introduces for the first time on its label the brilliant, 14-year-old, Athens-born pianist Dimitris Sgouros. Critical opinion has been unanimous in acknowledging the possession of quite exceptional powers by this unaffected, enthusiastic youth. The late Artur Rubinstein heard him and adjudged Dimitris to have produced "the best playing I have ever heard." Sviatoslav Richter, Claudio Abbado and many other eminent musicians have acclaimed him, and for Mstislav Rostropovich Dimitris Sgouros is "a miracle — a creation from God!" Of a performance of Brahms' Paganini Variations given by Dimitris in Berlin in May 1983, Walther Kaempfer stated that it was "the miracle of the evening: not...since Egon Petri have I heard such light, brilliance, elemental power and verve."

Dimitris Sgouros was born on August 30,1969. No other member of his family had evidenced any notable musical gifts, yet within a year of starting piano lessons, Dimitris at the age of seven gave his first public performance. In 1977 he won a scholarship to the Athens Conservatory where he studied with the noted pianist-teacher Maria Herogiorgiou-Sigara. He graduated in 1983, more than two months short of his 13th birthday, with a Professor's and Teacher's Diploma, a First Prize and a Gold Medal. This was but one of several First Prizes he took at successive competitions between 1978 and 1983, among them the UNICEF Competition in Bulgaria in 1979, the competition at Ancona, Italy, in 1980, and two major competitions in Athens.

Dimitris had already begun to give concerts outside his native Greece as early as 1981, and in April, 1982, his meteoric rise took him to Carnegie Hall, New York, where he played one of the most taxing concertos in the pianist's repertoire, the Third by Rachmaninoff, under Rostropovich. In June, at Wolf Trap, he performed the work again and at a second concert played Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, both under Rostropovich. In July he made his U.S. recital debut, at the Newport Music Festival; in October he was in Germany for a recital at the Berlin Philharmonie, and in November he was back in America for his first recital appearance in New York at Avery Fisher Hall. Rostropovich was again on hand, to conduct Sgouros' British debut in Rachmaninoff's Third, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in March 1983. In July, Sgouros returned to London to perform Beethoven's Third Concerto and the Symphonic Concerto by the Greek composer Manolis Kalomiris, with the LSO under Yannis Daras.

Dimitris still attends school for general studies, his parents rightly insisting on the necessity for a broad education. He is also working under Professor Guy Jonson at London's Royal Academy of Music. Sgouros himself insists on the highest attainable standards, acknowledging that his musicianship involves a never-ending process of learning. Performance means more to him than practice, the latter being devoted largely to the extension of his repertoire, for which he has already mastered more than thirty concertos. Thus far it is the Romantic composers who have predominated in his public performances, and it is therefore appropriate that his Angel debut album should be devoted to Schumann and Brahms.

Schumann's Etudes symphoniques, Op. 13, was published in 1837. The fine theme was composed by Baron von Fricken. Schumann later changed the title to Etudes en forme de variations. He also composed five variations which he excluded from the editions of 1837 and 1852, although Brahms included them in a volume of the Complete Schumann Works published in 1893. Sgouros plays them all in this performance. He adopts the order: Variation 1 after Etude 1; Variation 4 after Etude 5; Variation 2 after Etude 7; Variation 5 after Variation 2; Variation 3 after Etude 9. The result is a logical musical pattern which makes one wonder why Schumann excluded this fine material; most probably he did so on the grounds of length. Schumann winds up his far-ranging work with an elaborate finale into which he introduces a new theme, based on a fragment from Marschner's Der Templer und die Jüdin.

Brahms' two sets of Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, were composed in 1862-3. The theme, later used by Liszt, comes from Paganini's 24th Caprice. Though placed in one opus, the sets are separate works, and the final variation of each is, like Schumann's, extended in scope. There can be no doubt that these variations are fully worthy of the name Paganini. They exploit every aspect of piano technique with an intensity and a brio which has remained unmatched.

— ©1983 by Geoffrey Crankshaw

Side One

Schumann: Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 (including posthumous variations) (32:44)

Side Two

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35(20:16)

1. Theme and Variations 1 -14 (Book I) (10:50)

2. Theme and Variations 1-14 (Book II) (9:26)

 

 
 July 1984   From left to right:
John Pattrick, Vice President of Angel Records L.A.; Erick Friedman ; Jean-Philippe Collard ; Dimitris Sgouros ;
Dr. Mark P. Malkovich, III, Director Newport Festival, Rhode Island ; Anthony Caronia, Angel Records New York
 
[special thanks to Mark Malkovich IV for this photograph, drawn from the personal collection of Dr Mark P. Malkovich III]
 

 
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor
Dimitris Sgouros (piano), Berlin Philharmonic, Yuri Simonov (conductor)
1984 EMI Angel

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Notes from LP Jacket:

DIMITRIS SGOUROS, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Yuri Simonov cond.

RACHMANINOFF Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

"Not even the most sanguine concertgoer could have hoped to hear a more powerful, more authoritative or, in the physical as well as musical sense, more exciting account of Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto than that which Sgouros gave."

So wrote London's Financial Times critic on the occasion of the 13-year-old Athens-born prodigy Dimitris Sgouros' British debut at the Royal Festival Hall in March, 1983. He continued: "Most striking of all, it did not seem a copied performance, but in every measure original, freshly worked, strongly and concisely felt.... He caught the period flavor of the music, indeed—the sentiment, the nostalgia, the lonely fervor—far more acutely than any 13-year-old should rightly be able to catch; and its urgency, so easily smothered by purely sentimental reading, by turns darkly sensuous and flashing with fire. The technique is astonishingly secure."

Sgouros had made his U.S. debut the previous year in April, 1982, in Carnegie Hall. The work he chose from his extensive repertoire at that time, and for a subsequent performance soon afterward at Wolf Trap, was again Rachmaninoff's taxing Concerto No. 3. Then too critical response was most warmly laudatory, as it was for Sgouros' debut recording last year on Angel in a solo recital program of works by Schumann and Brahms. Sgouros now offers his first concerto recording and it is appropriately the third Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff. For it he is joined by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the distinguished Soviet conductor Yuri Simonov, who here makes his EMI recording debut.

•  •  •

The wistful poise of this Concerto's opening melody does not immediately signal that it is a piece in which melancholy and brilliance, sweetness and splendor, are inexplicably fused. It was first heard in New York on November 28, 1909, with the composer at the piano and Walter Damrosch as conductor, this making Rachmaninoff the third Russian, after Tchaikovsky and Scriabin, to have a major work premiered in the New World rather than the Old. He had written the concerto during the previous summer at Ivanovka, his estate in Russia, dedicating it to Josef Hofmann, whom he regarded as the greatest pianist of his own generation. But Hofmann never played the work, and it was completely overshadowed by the more directly appealing Concerto No. 2 until it was taken up by the young Vladimir Horowitz in the late 1920s. The Third Concerto advanced so far in the estimation of pianists and the musical public that at the time of Rachmaninoff's death in 1943 it was chosen more often than the Second for the numerous memorial concerts given in the USA.

This is encouraging in that the Concerto No. 3 is the more sophisticated work, its form arising in part from the external influence of traditional procedures and, more interestingly, in part from internal and kaleidoscopic shiftings of texture and rhythm. Indeed, rhythmic variation has particular importance, and the work is close-knit thematically, with cross-references between the three movements. Their superior flow and continuity are fruits of Rachmaninoff's achievements in his Symphony No. 2 .of 1906-7, another large piece in which highly characteristic, lyrical ideas demanded room to expand. In fact there is a remarkable fluidity in the development of themes.

After a statement and texturally varied restatement of the Concerto's initial theme by the piano and orchestra in various combinations, woodwind and brass give out an entirely new motive which proves to be a skeletal reference to this first movement's second theme. Following a brief exchange between soloist and orchestra, the second subject proper is heard from the piano, and very beautiful it is. This is considerably extended, the first theme returns, and the development continues, reaching a climax which expands itself with a magical passage wherein the music seems almost to die. Instead, it gives birth to the long and difficult cadenza that replaces a formal recapitulation; it is, in other words, integral to the structure, not a decoration or vehicle for mere virtuosic display. (Rachmaninoff provided two versions of the cadenza, of which Dimitris Sgouros plays the alternative, technically more demanding one.) In the wake of the high drama of the development section and cadenza the coda sounds curiously modest.

First suggested by a one-bar string introduction, the main theme of the slow movement is heard complete on the oboe. It is extended orchestrally with a sad loveliness typical of the composer, this in turn being answered by the notable rhetoric of the piano's remarkable entry. The strategy is one in which the opening orchestral passage suggests certain of the theme's potentialities, these throwing into relief the rather different ones uncovered by the piano. A buoyant waltz forms the contrasting middle section, decorated by the soloist with figurations of a delightful capriciousness, while its theme, an ingenious modification of the first movement's first subject, sounds in the wind department. It is the wind instruments which bring back the Adagio's initial music. Again the movement appears to be fading away when there is another surprise—a short, violent cadenza leading into the finale.

This makes an apt beginning to a closing movement of surpassing brilliance. In terms of Rachmaninoff's idiom as it was at the time, this systematically, yet with irresistible impetuosity, explores the full potentialities of piano and orchestra. It is not easy in these hectic circumstances to provide effective contrast, but this is supplied by a virtually independent central section of four miniature variations (scherzando), immobilized over a pedal point. The solo part is dazzlingly ornate, indeed more so as it goes on, although the first movement's two main themes are recalled. When this ends, the finale's own themes resurface, though stated in a number of quite new ways. The excitement increases to a point as near frenzy as Rachmaninoff ever expressed in his music, and there is an overwhelming coda.

—©1984 Max Harrison

Side One (16:17)

Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (beginning)

I. Allegro ma non troppo

Side Two (23:58)

Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (conclusion)

II. Intermezzo (Adagio)

III. Finale (Alia breve)

 

Dimitris Sgouros was born in Athens on August 30, 1969. He began piano studies at 6 and his exceptional talent was quickly recognized. In 1977 he entered Athens Conservatory on scholarship, studying with the noted Maria Herogiorgiou-Sigara. He graduated in 1982 with a Professor's and Performer's Diploma, a First Prize and Gold Medal. His subsequent teachers have included Stewart Gordon at the University of Maryland and Guy Jonson and Timothy Baxter of London's Royal Academy of Music. Between 1978 and 1982 Sgouros took First Prizes in four piano competitions including the UNICEF in Bulgaria in 1979, the Ancona in 1980, and two major competitions in Athens. He gave his first piano recital in Piraeus in 1977 and his first concert performance outside Greece in Bologna in 1981. The latter year also saw Sgouros performances in France, West Germany and Venezuela and 1982 brought his U.S. debut and further European appearances, followed by his British debut and his first Angel recording in 1983. Sgouros' extensive repertoire presently includes more than 35 concertos. It continues to grow and, despite the world acclaim his astonishing gifts have brought him, he continues to pursue his music studies unstintingly. His talent has been lauded by many eminent musicians, among them Rostropovich, Richter, Abbado, his conductor in this recording Simonov, and the late Arthur Rubinstein, who declared that Sgouros was the best pianist he had ever heard.

Yuri Simonov was born in Saratov, USSR, and studied at the Leningrad Conservatory. He assisted Mravinsky with the Leningrad Philharmonic and in 1963 made his conducting debut at the Conservatory. In 1966 he won the National Conductors' Competition and in 1968 the Santa Cecilia Conductors' Competition in Rome. From 1967 to '69 he was chief conductor of the Kislovodsk Philharmonic and in '69 made his Bolshoi Opera debut conducting "Aida." The following year he was appointed chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater, a position he still holds. He regularly conducts leading Soviet Symphony orchestras including the USSR, the Leningrad, and Moscow Philharmonic Orchestras and others, and has led the Leningrad and Moscow organizations on tours of Western Europe and Japan. In 1980 he founded the Bolshoi Theater Chamber Orchestra. In 1982 he made his debut with a Western opera company, conducting "Eugene Onegin" at Covent Garden, and his English concert debut conducting three concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra. He has presided over master classes with young performers in London. The USSR has distinguished him with appointments as People's Artist of the Republic of Russia (1976) and People's Artist of the USSR (1981). Angel Record listeners have enjoyed Simonov's artistry on the Melodiya/Angel recordings of the 1970s. He makes his EMI recording debut with this performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.

 

Bravo!  Sgouros ends Swiss recital with "fever-pitch" reading of Schumann's Toccata Op 7

 

Clavier Magazine - "Sgouros, on the basis of this performance, seems to have the makings of one of the century's great pianists"

 

 

 Ovation Magazine Special Tribute Edition -  Dimitris Sgouros awarded First Prize for his recordings, "strikingly outdistancing the competition..." 

 

Performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet

".. the Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor was given a poised and coherent reading that showed all parties concerned to be on the same wavelength. Sgouros must be commended for highlighting the inner lines of the score. The concert ended with a brilliant rendition of the Scherzo from Dvorak's Piano Quintet Op 81. The audience applauded warmly."

 

"Dimitris Sgouros is surely on his way to recording all the standard repertoire.  But for once I don't mind the duplications.  What a piano player he is!  I can't wait to hear his next recording."

- Roger Milton, Beverly Hills, CA   [High Performance Review]

 


    

 In homage of the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt in 2011, EMI/Warner Classics proudly announces a new double-CD set entitled "Essential Liszt" with landmark recordings by Dimitris Sgouros and other featured Liszt exponents of the modern era

 

"Essential Liszt" - the much-anticipated new EMI/Warner Classics album (worldwide release July 2011)

       


 

Dimitris Sgouros featured in Gramophone Magazine (June 2012)

 
The Insider's Guide
Gramophone selects June's unmissable musical events
Top picks - Dimitris Sgouros, Pinchas Zukerman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Maria Joao Pires, New York Philharmonic

 

 "UNMISSABLE!" 

 The Athens State Orchestra performs works by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Stravinsky with piano soloist Dimitris Sgouros under conductor Vassilis Christopoulos 


 


 

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