Review of Dimitris Sgouros' debut LP from a Los Angeles publication
BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Books I and II, Op. 25. SCHUMANN: Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13. Dimitris Sgouros (piano). ANGEL LP DS-38075 $12.98, Cassette 4XS-38075 $9.98
"... Forget his age. This is exciting pianism and superb music-making ..."
I didn't want to like this record. I resent press-agentry and the hyperbole that goes with it; and the whole phenomenon of the prodigy irritates me. Why should I bother with a child's interpretation of Schumann and Brahms when I already have the mature thoughts of Arrau and Weissenberg? So what if he is "phenomenal"?! I just want top-notch Schumann and Brahms, and how can a thirteen-year-old give me that?
I put on the Schumann. Excellent sound: clean, with silent surfaces. Good for Angel! But it's not just the recording. Dimitris Sgouros's playing is wonderfully clean. Quite a few nice touches. He has the bright tone of Rubinstein, with the same facility and smoothness and crisp articulation. OK, so the kid's a technical wizard. He's not just amazing for a thirteen-year-old — he'a just plain amazing!
What about "interpretation"? Remarkably coherent, and well thought-out. Can a thirteen-year-old think like this? Maybe they lied about his age. Listen to that heady sweepl Nothing episodic or mechanical; he seems to grasp it as a whole. He understands the architecture of the music. Surely he's older then thirteen!
The other side: Brahms — a good choice — another fiendish set of variations. Brilliant, I'm afraid. Stunning, I'm forced to declare. He polishes it off like a piece of cake! Outrageous! Such verve! Such power! Such insight!
There must be something occult about this boy! How can he have so little to learn? How can anyone be so fully developed at thirteen? Genes? Instinct? Did Arthur Rubinstein bequeath his talent to Dimitris Sgouros? He does sound like Rubinstein—very much so. Rubinstein heard him play before he died and reportedly muttered, "the best playing I have ever heard." I found that hard to believe. But if Dimitris Sgouros really made this record. . . .
Forget his age. This is exciting pianism and superb music-making. Don't throw away Arrau or Weissenberg: they're marvelous, too, and totally different. Weissenberg is more emphatic, impetuous, exaggerated, with wilder contrasts, emphasizing the manic-depressive Schumann. Sgouros, like Rubinstein, offers the healthy, sane Schumann. (Pogorelich, by the way, is closer to Weissenberg, but less convincing). And Claudio Arrau is marvelous with Schumann: more inward, reflective, ruminative. His approach has its own validity, but Sgouros makes him sound almost clumsy at times, in this piece.
As for the Brahms, we're talking about a performance on the level of Katchen, but with vastly superior sound. The only other that comes near it (indeed; pretty much equals it) is Mikhail Faerman on DG — another new but remarkable pianist.
Some critics are bound to hear more "maturity" in other performances of both these works. But unless maturity is by definition impossible in a thirteen-year-old, I wouldn't pay much attention to such comments. Sgouros is not of the profound, introspective mold — he'll probably never want to be. Neither was Rubinstein at 85. The shocking truth is that Dimitris Sgouros is everything now that he will ever need to be!
[Click on image to read the LP liner notes]
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley honors Dimitris Sgouros for his Olympian Performance, July 18, 1984, Los Angeles
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..."
|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]|
"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]
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