Sergio Díaz De Rojas has had music in his blood since he was born. Raised in a family of musicians, the Peruvian composer took inspiration from his grandfather and his grandfather’s sister, both accomplished pianists and composers. It was the latter relative —his great aunt Elsa— who first taught Sergio classical piano and became the guiding force in his musical development, introducing him to Bach and Chopin when he was 11.
Though classically trained in his youth, Sergio had an epiphany at university when he discovered neoclassical composers such as Ólafur Arnalds, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm, and Max Richter. “It was a very big revelation for me to discover that there were people alive, making this music that is connected to classical music but that also feels so contemporary and relatable,” Sergio recalls. “In that moment, the option of composing music appeared for the first time”. His horizons further expanded when he fell in love with genre-hopping musicians like Sufjan Stevens, whose album Carrie & Lowell profoundly affected him, and Keaton Henson. Sergio cites both musicians as his conceptual inspirations. It was Henson’s 2014 collaborative album Romantic Works that inspired Sergio to craft a full album instead of just individual pieces.
In 2015, while based in Peru, Sergio self-released his debut album, Unsaid Words. The album’s yearning arpeggios and mastery of mood quickly introduced Sergio’s talents. Pieces like Serendipity and Calmness revealed his knack for pairing neoclassical composition with ambient textures and found sounds, while the mournful cello of Nature hearkened back to 19th-century chamber music. Sergio subsequently released three EPs: December 03 (2016), which was composed and recorded in one afternoon; The Morning is a River (2017), which contained four piano pieces paired with slow-moving images; and Postcards (2020), which Sergio has described as a contemplative exploration of solitude, heavily inspired by Chopin.
Over the years, Sergio’s works have been streamed over eighteen million times worldwide, and his track Untitled was one of the most celebrated features on Nils Frahm’s Piano Day 2018 playlist. Sergio has toured extensively around Europe, and his piece Istanbul was included on the first publication of Upright Editions (English musician Garreth Brooke’s initiative to distribute the sheet music of contemporary composers), and was even a key element that inspired the project. Sergio has also participated in diverse initiatives such as Project XII by Deutsche Grammophon, Piano Layers by 7K, and Piano Day by LEITER Verlag.
In the eight years since his debut album, Sergio has relocated from Peru, where he felt little connection to the country, to Spain. He also fell in love with ambient music, particularly the works of Japanese composers like Haruomi Hosono and Hiroshi Yoshimura, who helped inspire the minimalistic hush of his own work.
Text by Zach Schonfeld
New York City, December 2022