Piano virtuoso takes on romantic works

Following intense pre- and post-election periods, pianist Dimitris Sgouros’s upcoming concerts at the Athens Concert Hall are set to offer local audiences welcoming, musical breaks. The works chosen by the Greek soloist run the gamut of romanticism, from the movement’s early days with J.S. Bach to its culmination in works by Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. «We begin with the ancestors, because without them we wouldn’t have had classicism’s development from Bach to Mozart and Beethoven – the latter’s impetus for romantic works earned him the reputation of being the first romantic,» says Sgouros. «In this light, the recitals include great and purely romantic works, tracing the landmark musical movement’s course and development.» Besides being representative of the movement, the works are also very beautiful. «I believe that audiences will be very satisfied – the difficulties lie with the interpreter, not with the public,» says Sgouros. «These are very demanding works. Even parts that might appear easy could boomerang on stage – that is, if the interpreter doesn’t give them the necessary attention.» The first concert (tomorrow) is defined as «The Roots of Romanticism.» «It’s very moving for me, because I haven’t interpreted this piece in Greece since I was a child – though I do play it abroad. This is Busoni’s acclaimed piano transcription of Bach’s violin ‘Chaconne’ from the Partita in D Minor,» says Sgouros. «This will be followed by Mozart’s Adagio and Fantasia, works featuring powerful romantic elements, elements that quickly take you to romanticism’s next phase, namely to Beethoven, who elaborated upon them and revealed them in his 32 Variations in C Minor and his Waldstein Sonata, Opus 53 – both of which I will interpret.» Variations The 32 Variations is another landmark work for the pianist: «People think that my big break came in 1982 at Carnegie Hall when I interpreted Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 – a defining work for my subsequent recording and recital career. In 1979, however, when I was 9, I was part of a children’s assembly, organized by UNICEF in Sofia. Introducing the event was [Leonard] Bernstein and my friend, Ludmila Zivkova, President Zivkov’s daughter, who later became minister of culture, before she was assassinated. I interpreted the 32 Variations and I still recall the audience’s enthusiasm – I came back for four or five encores; meanwhile, the event was being broadcast on television to the rest of the world.» If the Waldstein Sonata is a difficult and risky work due to the fact that «it doesn’t allow you to venture out of the space Beethoven allocates in order to interpret it in an excessively romantic way,» the composer’s Eroica Variations is even more dangerous. Featuring a difficult Fugue, the work opens the second recital on «German Romanticism» this Saturday. «Many people think that these variations were composed after the Eroica Symphony. On the contrary, Beethoven had already composed the variations beforehand, eventually basing the Symphony on them,» says Sgouros. «In this recital we move on to a great romantic, Schumann. First of all with the ‘Carnival,’ featuring 20 pieces, each of which has its own interpretation model and a sensational coherence. Even harder is the lovely ‘Fantasia,’ which also happened to be his wife Clara’s favorite.» Dominating the third concert (March 17) are works by «Great Romantic Virtuosos.» «In the first part, we have Chopin’s most profound works, the fourth Ballad Opus 52 and Sonata No. 3, Opus 58. In the second part, which is lighter, there are two charming works by Liszt, ‘Venice and Naples’ and the composer’s entertaining paraphrase on an opera which I, just like him, adore, Gounod’s ‘Faust,’» says the pianist. «Altogether, it’s a difficult combination of works, in the Ballad alone you are left exhausted, even though the public is not necessarily aware of it, but even the seemingly ‘lighter’ works are no less complicated for the interpreter.» What about Sgouros? Is he more of a classicist or a romantic? «I’m not a father yet, but I imagine that a father loves all his children the same. When I’m on stage, even when it comes to works toward which I don’t feel any particular attachment, such as a late 20th century piece, at that moment, I feel like I’m facing my favorite one…» Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.

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