The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, October 20, 1987

Sgouros proves electrifying - Pianist plays brilliantly with FW Symphony

By John Ardoin / Music Critic of The Dallas Morning News

FORT WORTH - Whatever reservations one harbored concerning Dimitris Sgouros' appearance here last spring with the Dallas Symphony, the young Greek pianist (who just turned 18) left no room for quibbling this past weekend. He returned to the North Texas area as soloist with the Fort Worth Symphony on Saturday and Sunday in the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto. John Giordano conducted.

To say that his two performances of the Prokofiev - and I heard both - were electrifying only hints at the startling impact of his playing on this occasion. This was the first local encounter with Sgouros in 20th-century music, and it was breathtakingly evident that his powerful hands, his fleet technique, his searching mind and his keen musical sensitivity are as relevant and illuminating in contemporary music as they are in Romantic music.

He leapt into the maelstrom of the first movement with a daredevil force and speed I had previously only encountered in this concerto with Soviet pianist Alexander Toradze. But like Toradze's, Sgouros' playing was not merely a matter of awesome velocity. There were equal amounts of clarity that provided a full accounting of the music's detail and its structure.

Balancing these were hushed, exquisitely molded episodes that added deep musical substance to this extraordinary experience and made this Prokofiev Third more than simply a matter of fire and fury. The orchestra and Giordano were one with him, matching Sgouros' bravura every step of the way - no small thing.

After the final burst of high-tension octaves and chords that brings the final movement of the Prokofiev to a crushing close, Sgouros was entitled to retire from the stage with honor and to savor his unbridled ovation. But the concerto seemed little more than a warm-up for his coltish virtuosity. He returned for the two encores - first the quietude of a Rachmaninov prelude, which he coddled with warmth and melting phrases, and then Liszt's dazzling paraphrase on the Quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto.

The Liszt was given a performance that was filled with risk-taking. Sgouros extended himself, his technique and the music to a point most pianists never dream of. Performed with so prodigious a freedom and impetus, the Liszt became a true improvisation, as though the music had never been heard or attempted before.

Unwilling to completely trust my ears, I returned for his second appearance on Sunday afternoon; and if anything, the concerto was more compelling and demonic. This time it led to three encores, including another Liszt paraphrase, one of the waltz sequences in the Kernesse Scene of Gounod's Faust.

The Faust paraphrase is rarely encountered for a very good reason. Next to Liszt's Don Juan Fantasy, it is one of the most grueling tests ever devised for a pianist. Even on those rare occasions when someone has the nerve to program either, they are played with a gingerliness that skirts their cruel challenges. Not so with Sgouros. Again, he plunged headlong into the music and sent tidal waves of scales and octaves rebounding through the hall, which submerged the audience in an enveloping flood of pyrotechnics.

To be fair, there was more to these concerts than Sgouros' feats of legerdemain, including a tense, well-made and theatrical performance of Tchaikovsky's Hamlet Fantasy Overture by Giordano and the orchestra. There was also Tchaikovsky's ever-green Serenade for Strings, but it was surprisingly limp and limited in color after the strength and enterprise brought to the Hamlet Overture.

It is worth marking on your calendar the date of Feb. 7, 1988. The concert, which was taped for broadcast by KERA-FM (90.1), will be aired then, and anyone who missed out on the real thing can experience the wonders of Sgouros second-hand that Sunday afternoon.

notes.gif (299 bytes) Hear the broadcast of the Prokofiev 3rd Concerto from Fort Worth lofi.gif (90 bytes) 1st movement hifi.gif (134 bytes) 2nd movement lofi.gif (90 bytes) 3rd movement



Sgouros also joined the Dallas Symphony in Spring 1987, bringing the house down with colossal performances of the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto!

The Dallas Morning News - July 13, 1985

15-year-old Sgouros blazes through Mozart with DSO

Author: John Ardoin   
Publish Date: July 13, 1985


The Dallas Symphony's summer Discovery Series at the Majestic Theatre reached its midpoint on Thursday evening, and for many that concert has provided a discovery that will not soon be forgotten. Dimitris Sgouros, the 15-year-old pianistic wonder from Greece, returned for his second engagement in town. Word of his fiery debut here last April and his prodigal playing at that time had obviously been widespread, and the Majestic was standing room only.

This time around Sgouros (with guest conductor Leon Fleisher) unfolded new dimensions to his artistry with a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, which proved his interior values are equal to the exterior flash of his playing. The D minor is a big piece, although many try to scale it down to more almost-chamber dimensions. Sgouros played it for its full worth, with rich, billowing phrases and fleet but muscular passage-work.

Yet, there was a caress of great gentleness when the music demanded it, particularly in its remarkable second movement, a manic section that swings from tenderness to impetuosity. Though there were occasional blurs in Sgouros' sweeping approach and turns that would have been more shapely had they been more vocally conceived and had less snap, there was no doubting his exceptional ability to acclimatize himself to the Mozartian terrain, and to stake an impressive claim on the manly Mozart.

The response from the audience was immediate and prolonged and yielded two encores -- the Etude Op. 25, No. 4 of Chopin and Liszt's hair-raising 8th Transcendental Etude, "Wilde Jagd' (or "Wild Hunt'). The Chopin was all elegance, a sigh of a performance filled with a magical lift and twists of rubato. The Liszt was an unleasing of demons and night creatures, staggering in its accuracy (no small thing in this fistful of notes) and in the imagination Sgouros brought to it.

If you were not among the fortunate who heard this concert, it will be broadcast Monday evening at 8 p.m. over WRR-FM. And mark next May 5 in red. On that date, Sgouros returns to Dallas for a full-length recital under the auspices of the Dallas Symphony. And then he will return with the orchestra during the 1986-87 season.

Fleisher (one of the few pianists-turned-conductor who makes a podium seem truly like home turf) trimmed back the DSO a bit too much for the size of K. 466. (More low strings were needed.) But he was one with Sgouros throughout, and partnered him with all the alertness and care one would expect from this exemplary artist.

Fleisher had begun the evening with the suite from Handel's Water Music and closed with Bizet's disarming Symphony in C. For some reason Fleisher decided to dust off and make public again an old curio -- conductor Hamilton Harty's version of the Water Music. This was sort of like appearing in public in spats.

It was through the Harty version that the Water Music was first known, but it is difficult to take in this dated version today; it is like a tree minus its foliage. The pieces within the suite have been strangely reordered, and there are none of the niceties of ornamentation that are part-and-parcel of the original.

As for the Bizet, if you grew up knowing it in the concert hall, Thursday's performance was decidedly on the lean side. But if, like me, you first discovered it in George Balanchine's loving choreography with the smaller sound of a ballet pit orchestra, everything seemed quite in order. It was given an airy, lyrical outing, highlighted by some masterful solo playing by oboist Stephen Lickman.


Dimitris Sgouros interview on Dallas/Fort Worth radio station WRR Classical 101.1 FM



 Dimitris Sgouros on the original cadenzas he composed for several of Mozart's Piano Concertos, plus a scintillating performance of the cadenza section of Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto



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