29 April , 2001, Turkish Probe issue 432, Copyright © Turkish Daily News

Arts & Culture

  • Dimitris Sgouros: Portrait of a Genius

  • Dimit.jpg (15824 bytes)Dimitris Sgouros: Portrait of a Genius

    By Oznur Kayahan

    Ankara is preparing once more to host a special guest from Greece, a musical prodigy, -- Dimitris Sgouros. The world-renowned pianist will perform a piano recital at Bilkent Concert Hall on April 30 as a part of 18th Ankara Music Festival.

    The world-renowned pianist Dimitris Sgouros performed at the opening of Bilkent's new amphitheater, Odeon a year ago to nearly 4,000 people.

    Sgouros came to Ankara a few days before the concert. The Turkish Daily News had the chance to catch the piano virtuoso prior to his concert and ask him a few questions in person.

    Dimit1.jpg (16217 bytes)Story begins at six

    Sgouros was born in Athens in 1969. To those interested, his exact birthday is Aug. 30, a Virgo. The story of his genius unfolds. Sgouros began playing the piano at the age of six, and gave his first concert at seven. At the age of 12, he graduated from the Athens Conservatory with diplomas as both a pianist and piano teacher, winning the first prize and a gold medal. In 1982, when only 12 years old, he played Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 3, one of the most difficult pieces for piano, at every musician's dream venue, Carnegie Hall in New York, with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich. He was wildly applauded, and his performance that evening was called one of the most impressive musical debuts of the century. "The boy is a miracle of nature, a musical phenomenon sent by God," said Rostropovich.

    Sgouros continued his brilliant studies at the Royal Academy of London and later at the University of Maryland in the United States. He graduated from both institutions with the highest marks ever awarded. Besides his unusual musical talents, the artist is fluent in six languages and graduated with honors from Athens University's mathematics faculty.

    Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain are only some of the countries where he has dazzled the music world. He has performed for the royal families of Britain and Sweden and played under the baton of names like Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Yemil Tabakov, Kurt Masur, Yevgeni Svetlanov and now Gurer Aykal. Since March 1988, three "Sgouros Festivals" have been instituted, in Hamburg, Ljubljana and Singapore.

    Dimit2.jpg (14213 bytes)Performing in the capital city

    Is it the first time Sgouros visited Turkey? To this question, Sgouros got excited and talked about how much he enjoyed his previous visits of more than a decade ago to Istanbul in 1989 and 1990, when he performed at the Istanbul Music Festival. This time, however, he was excited as he was to play in the capital city for the first time, at the opening of a very special amphitheater, and with maestro Gurer Aykal. He also mentioned that he became very good friends with Aykal and his son Kerem.

    Another Turkish musician Sgouros is on very good terms with is conductor Cem Mansur, with whom he played Beethoven's 4th and 5th concertos in Oxford, England, and Palermo, Italy. Although he hasn't yet listened to Turkish piano prodigy Fazil Say, Sgouros appreciates famous Turkish pianists Gulsum Onay and Idil Biret.

    Sgouros began his musical life when he was only a child, at the age of six. Would he encourage a similar life for his son, for instance, knowing the pros and cons of leading a life filled with music from childhood? He says that, first of all, his child has to like classical music. And eventually if he chose to follow a similar path to that of his father, Sgouros would make sure that his son knows that many sacrifices, particularly of one's private life, are needed. He compared his devotion to music to the devotion needed in a medical career. He also added his son would be left to make his own choices.

    Travelling genius

    We know that when only 12 years old, Sgouros played Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 3 at Carnegie Hall in New York. You might know of another musical genius, David Helfgott from Scott Hicks' famous movie "Shine," and his special admiration of Rachmaninov as well. We asked him whether he identifies with the great Russian musician, who also started playing the piano when only four years old and travelled throughout Dimit3.jpg (19720 bytes)the world, performing in different countries and remaining peerless during this time. He maintains that Rachmaninov has special significance for him as he also played music in major cities like Washington D.C. and London from 12 years of age. But he mentions that composers from Germanic countries are very important to him as well, namely Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven.

    Sgouros agrees that it is fair to say he has played with almost every orchestra in Europe, the United States and Japan. He has also played in almost every place in the Germanic countries. As a special anecdote, he mentions how his relationship between conductor Rostropovich began and how he came to be Sgouros' surrogate father. When he played at Carnegie Hall with the National Symphony Orchestra, under Rostropovich's conduction, the maestro had a 100 percent belief in him and arranged a concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The amazing thing was that Sgouros could choose any conductor he wanted, and it was Rostropovich whom he decided to perform with.

    He has played all over the world and still travels continuously to perform in the world's major cities. He was educated in Greece, England and the United States. But where does he actually reside? His home is definitely Athens. Greek mythology, classical Greek literature and literature in general are his other interests. Does he only listen to classical music? Although not very fond of pop music, Sgouros likes listening to folk and ethnic music.

    Sgouros has about 50 piano concertos in his repertoire, including the complete works of Chopin, Liszt and Beethoven. He has won awards for composing, although he prefers not to listen to his award-winning compositions of more than a decade back. When asked about the distinction between a composer and a performer, Sgouros says, "Of course, we are not superior to composers, but our job isn't easy either." He muses, "What would the composers do without us?" excluding Liszt from his remark on composers.

    When asked his opinions on the ever-critical relationship between Turkey and Greece, he wisely says that he does not want to repeat what politicians are currently saying about peace and harmony between the two countries. He says that art has a unique language of its own and he wants to send his message through his music. But he can't help mentioning his deep sorrow for the earthquakes that shook Turkey after Aug. 17 last year and that he is always ready to perform for UNICEF.

    Musician Claudio Abbado said of Sgouros, "A Sgouros comes along once every 100 years." And Ankara had its fair share of this genius, a shooting star from Greece. Let's hope to see Dimitris Sgouros back soon.


    Sgouros concert in Oxford University (where he pursued studies in post-graduate mathematics) with renowned Turkish conductor Cem Mansur


    Dimitris Sgouros performs Grieg's Piano Concerto with the Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gürer Aykal


    [Click on an image to enlarge]




    Istanbul audiences are in for a treat!


    The lights are dimmed as the concert gets underway


    Dimitris Sgouros with the Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra











    Sgouros enthralls his audience in the Grieg Piano Concerto

















    Sgouros takes a well-deserved bow














        Great team effort! Dimitris Sgouros joins hands with Gürer Aykal      







    In June 2000, Sgouros gave the inaugural opening concert of the Bilkent Odeon Amphitheatre in Ankara, before a delighted audience of 5000

    DVD release
    Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5 "Emperor"
    Dimitris Sgouros (soloist)
    Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Emil Tabakov (conductor)
    Live concert recording from Ankara on April 8, 2006


    Sgouros the ideal soloist for Beethoven's majestic Emperor Concerto in Istanbul



    Back to Home Page - Free MP3 Music by Dimitris Sgouros