"Sgouros' brilliant show of hands"
Review from South China Morning Post - a News Corporation publication
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall recital - 19th October 1991
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
"As for the (Liszt) Norma transcription, the work is usually played to show a pianist's skill. Sgouros didn't need that. His skill was so extraordinary that he could play it actually as opera... such is his genius, so sensitive his virtuosity, that a single recital hardly begins to plumb that limitless artistry."
Author: HARRY ROLNICK
At 21, Dimitris Sgouros is no longer saddled with audiences watching a child prodigy. Instead on Saturday the audience heard an extraordinarily sensitive and powerful musician of many distinctive qualities.
The first quality one notices in his work is Sgouros' total command of the piano. This is unmistakable in the dizzying Liszt operatic transcription, of course.
But in the Beethoven and Chopin, his command allowed him to reach uncharted musical areas and still retain that absolute musicality of the original. After this control, little by little, one grows aware of Sgouros' beauty of sound, the genuine loveliness of all that strikes the ear.
The third quality - a quality which takes a quantum jump to recognise - is his grace. This is not the grace of a facile pianist. It is the grace of a pianist willing to forsake orthodox rhythms to achieve his goal.
By taking chances with the metre, he can throw the ornaments and sudden changes like spray around the original melody. His tones can be resolute or light. Even with the most startling changes, he can add depth, perspective and roundness.
Sgouros' Chopin was hardly textbook playing. But even in the most outrageous liberties, one felt that he retained those grand lines which sweep through a piece.
What were those rhythmic freedoms? He treated the Scherzo with its literal meaning, as a joke - if a black or evil joke. Those first enigmatic triplets were initially played like a throwaway line, almost unheard. The titanic following themes were sometimes thunderous, sometimes tender. Not a phrase was repeated in the same way.
Sgouros almost battered down the bass with a barrel-house blues abandon, yet never forsaking that great overflowing mass of themes.
The rhythms were uneven, almost ungainly at times. Yet never - not even to the last double octaves - did Sgouros forsake overwhelming power of the piece.
Polonaise had that same command and flexibility. When one expected the major theme to come booming out, Sgouros almost hid it. And then, like the magician that he is, he pulled it out just in time.
Perhaps there was more "respect" - or at least less rubato in the Beethoven "Appassionata" Sonata.
I have never heard anyone play it with such pent-up energy and emotion. The shape was understated at first, it heaved and pulsed through the first two movements. And finally, in that last presto coda, Sgouros let it all come out.
This was not simply a conclusion with a virtuoso's flourish. It was totally rhythmical, totally powerful.
The second half was devoted to Liszt. First the euphoric Harmonies du Soir. The work itself can sound maudlin in lesser hands: the wandering lines in thirds, the little arpeggios are all Liszt at his most dreamy.
Yet Sgouros, by playing it straight, by not taking the liberties he did with Chopin, showed just how sensitive those huge hands can be.
So bewitching was his wizardry that the audience had to catch its breath for about 10 seconds before the applause.
As for the Norma transcription, the work is usually played to show a pianist's skill. Sgouros didn't need that.
His skill was so extraordinary that he could play it actually as opera. The arias and their mixtures, the embellishments and cadenzas - cadenzas where Sgouros transformed the 32nd-notes into 64th-notes without any effort - made for logic and dazzlement at one time.
The three encores - by Scriabin, Moszkowski and Chopin - showed different aspects of Sgouros. But such is his genius, so sensitive his virtuosity, that a single recital hardly begins to plumb that limitless artistry.
21st October 1991
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
李斯特改編自《Norma 諾瑪》歌劇的鋼琴曲，一般演奏者都用來炫耀技巧。Sgouros史古羅斯根本不作此圖。他的技巧原已登峰造極，直把琴曲當作歌劇來演奏。… 琴藝高超而敏感，一個演奏會只是牛刀小試，不足以蠡測其似海鴻才。
Hong Kong Review (H.K. Government Information Services)
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Sgouros with Yo-Yo Ma (2001)
Yo-Yo Ma - inseparable from his cello
DIMITRIS SGOUROS - Steinway & Sons 150 Years Commemorative Double CD Album
Patron: Vladimir Ashkenazy
"It gives me great pleasure to commemorate this significant milestone..."
(Henry Z. Steinway)
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