Piano District — Piano Recital Can Çakmur
Mozart / Schubert / Liszt / Mitropoulos / Bach/Busoni

Druckerei Baden, Baden AG, 2022-11-19

4.0-star rating

2022-12-07 — Original posting

Can Çakmur (© HIPIC)
Can Çakmur (© HIPIC)
10 Jahre Piano District: Rezital des jungen türkischen Pianisten Can Çakmur — Zusammenfassung

Zur Eröffnung der Jubiläumssaison zum 10-jährigen Bestehen der Konzertserie “Piano District” luden die Organisatoren den türkischen Pianisten Can Çakmur (*1997) zu einem Rezital in der Druckerei Baden. Die erste Konzerthälfte bis zur Pause gehörte ganz der Klaviersonate in a-moll, op.42 (D.845) von Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828).

Die ursprünglich am Anfang stehende Klaviersonate Nr.13 in B-dur, KV 333 (315c) von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) eröffnete die zweite Hälfte des Rezitals. Klanglich und technisch ging es danach “zur Sache”. Die Fantasie und Fuge über “B-A-C-H”, S.529/2 von Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) ist die Transkription der zweiten Version von Liszts gleichnamigem Orgelwerk. Ich habe diese Komposition mit dem gleichen Interpreten bereits in einem Konzert in der Vorwoche (Zürich, 2022-11-11) gehört und besprochen.

Danach setzte Can Çakmur dem “noch eins drauf”! Der vor allem als Dirigent bekannte Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896 – 1960) war auch Komponist. Seine Passacaglia, Präludium und Fuge aus dem Jahre 1924 ist ein weitgehend atonales Werk, das auf dem Flügel wahrhaft orchestrale Klanggewalten entlädt. Am Kulminationspunkt mündet die Fuge in eine kurze, choral-ähnliche Melodie und verklingt. Can Çakmur ließ nahtlos das kurze Choralvorspiel zu “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”, BWV 639 von Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 1750) in der Klavierbearbeitung (BV B 27/5) von Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924) nachfolgen, als Abschluss des offiziellen Programms.

Als Zugabe wählte Can Çakmur die berühmte Chaconne aus Bachs Partita für Violine solo in d-moll, BWV 1004, in der Klavierbearbeitung für die linke Hand allein, von Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897).

Table of Contents


Venue, Date & TimeDruckerei Baden, Baden AG, 2022-11-19 19:30h
Series / TitlePiano District — Piano Recital Can Çakmur
OrganizerPiano District, Baden
Reviews from related eventsEarlier events in the context of Piano District
Concert (& related) reviews featuring Can Çakmur

Piano District Baden — Opening the 10th Anniversary Season

Ten years ago, 2012, a club named “piano-ag” was founded near the city of Baden in the Canton of Aargau. The aim of the club was, to present prominent pianists to audiences in the area. This was realized in the following year, with a concert series under the label Piano District. That series settled in a peculiar venue, the Druckerei Baden, the former print shop, where the local newspaper was produced before it merged with other newspapers in the area. Two people are at the head of the club: the president, Thomas Pfiffner (*1965), and the artistic director, the prominent Swiss pianist Oliver Schnyder (*1973).

This recital marked the beginning of the tenth “Piano District” season. Not surprisingly, the venue was well-filled. Over the past decade, “Piano District” has established itself firmly in the Swiss concert scene. This success is largely the result of the efforts of Oliver Schnyder and Thomas Pfiffner, and of the supporters of the club.

It’s the 11th time I’m reviewing a concert in the context of “Piano District” (see the link above). I have written about the venue in my first review (2014), so I don’t need to repeat myself here.

The Artist: Can Çakmur

The Turkish pianist Can Çakmur (*1997, pronunciation: Djahn Chakmur) grew up in Ankara. The artist is not new to me. In March 2021 the Orpheum Foundation for the Support of Young Artists launched a 5-year, 11-CD recording project involving all of Mozart’s instrumental concertos. I was fortunate enough to be invited to report about the first three recording sessions. Can Çakmur was among the first soloists participating in the project. In my report from 2021-03-20, you find more information on the artist and his biography.

This concert was one of the rare occasions where I encountered an artist twice within a few days. Just 8 days prior to this recital, Can Çakmur performed in a duo recital on 2022-11-11 in Zurich, together with the Georgian violinist Veriko Tchumburidze (*1996, see also Wikipedia). Even though this now was a solo recital, there was one duplication (Liszt’s Fantasy & Fugue) between the two events, see below. Not a problem, though: environment and acoustics were very different between the two events, even with identical pianos in these recitals: a Steinway B-211 in excellent condition, prepared here by Bachmann Pianos, Wetzikon.


The official program opened with the Mozart sonata. The swap with the Schubert sonata was announced only in the introduction.

Setting, etc.

My seat was in a central row in the parquet seating, at the right-hand edge (along the wall). The acoustics at that position are excellent.

Concert & Review

Preparation — Preluding

A short moment after sitting down at the piano, the pianist reached into the keyboard and started playing—something other than Schubert. As he explained in the on-stage post-concert interview with the organizers, Can Çakmur is trying to revive an old tradition (100 and more years ago): there were times when it was not uncommon to see a pianist open a recital with an improvisation. Indeed, this is not the first time that I encounter such an opening.

Inappropriate Preluding

I remember one instance where a pianist did exactly that—with a longer improvisation (or rather a piece of his own) in the style of the first composition—and then seamlessly transitioning into the regular program. Most people in the audience were clueless about when the improvisation ended, even about the fact that there was an improvisation (there had not been an announcement). Back then, I found this not only utterly confusing to the (most) listeners, but actually bad taste, arrogant, and pretentious towards the (contemporary) composer of the first piece.

The “Good Kind” of Preluding

Luckily, I also experienced the exact opposite to the above “incident”, when the French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau (*1991) performed J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, in Zurich, on 2022-04-10. Here, the artist started the recital with two minutes of extended, presumably improvised preluding. It was definitely baroque, though rather French-sounding than exactly matching Bach’s style. A key point was that Jean Rondeau did not try merging his preluding with Bach’s composition. There was a pause between the preluding and Bach’s Aria. The “intro” rather was a means of getting the audience “tuned in”, and reaching everybody’s attention and focus for the around 1.5 hours of performance that were to follow. And indeed, it was the ideal prelude / beginning for an absolutely stellar concert experience.

Can Çakmur’s Intro

I would not want to compare Jean Rondeau’s and Can Çakmur’s preluding—the experience with the former’s recital is hard to match. Still, Can Çakmur’s improvisation was an excellent preparation for the (first half of the) recital. It was fitting to the calm beginning of the Schubert sonata both in character and in dynamics. The transition was almost seamless. However, Can Çakmur’s intro was distinctly different in style, using baroquish gestures (not Schubert). It was short (just a few seconds), leisurely, playful, harmonically open: a few arpeggios, short motifs with subtle, dissonant acciaccaturas. A kind of question, raising expectations for things to come. And it ensured the listener’s full attention.

Franz Schubert, 1846, 3D Portrait
Franz Schubert

Schubert: Piano Sonata in A minor, op.42, D.845

Composer & Work

In May 1825, Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) composed his Piano Sonata in A minor, op.42, D.845. He used the title “Premiere Grande Sonata” (first grand sonata). It is the first of only three sonatas that were published in the composer’s lifetime (together with the Sonata in D major, op.53, D.850, and the Sonata in G major, op.78, D.894). There are four movements:

  1. Moderato
  2. Andante poco moto
  3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace — Trio: Un poco più lento
  4. Rondo: Allegro vivace

The Performance

Schubert was 28 at the time of the composition, Can Çakmur now is 25. So, is their age comparable? Probably not: Can Çakmur is at the beginning of a promising career—Schubert was only three years from his premature death…

I. Moderato

As mentioned, the transition from the improvisation was almost seamless, just a tiny pause. However, it was instantly clear where Schubert’s sonata began. The listener instantly felt “pulled into Schubert’s world”: the opening motif (and its repetition) a moody, somewhat melancholic question, the staccato motifs mutating from assertive to another question. Such typical Schubertian mood swings, already in the first bars! And a well-reflected beginning in Can Çakmur’s interpretation.

Only the a tempo in bar 10ff gave a scent of the artist’s youth, in the almost instant (slight) acceleration in the crescendo bars, culminating in the ff outbreak. The latter remained appropriately moderated in the dynamics, though. Throughout the exposition, the tempo felt fluent—to the point where the staccato in the repeated quavers almost started to lose clarity. In general, Can Çakmur avoided strong rubato, or an exceedingly moderate pace (for one of the exceptions see below). Schubert did not specify metronome numbers, so the meaning of moderato leaves room for interpretation.

The second pass of the exposition felt more reflective. Particularly towards the end, around the molto espressivo, Can Çakmur took back the pace for the closing phrase, such that the falling semiquaver motif almost felt like quavers. I liked the extended fermata at the end of the first pass of the exposition—as if the artist meant to highlight (or ponder?) the return to the beginning?

Development — Recap

One passage that stood out in the development part was the ppp segment with its lyrical cantabile in “veiled” sonority, which persisted through the subsequent, extended semiquaver tremolo segment. The following ppp felt like the beginning of the recap section. However, that’s just Schubert pretending, as the music soon builds up to the dramatic, resolute climax that leads to the short A major segment. Only after that, the recap section begins.

One impression that I kept from this first movement: at least from my position, the interpretation occasionally tended to feel “somewhat loud”. This may have been a question of me (or the artist??) adapting to the acoustics. However, I also was thinking of the more modest (but richer) sonority of pianos at Schubert’s time. Primarily, though, I enjoyed Can Çakmur’s clearly conceived dynamics.

I noted the occasional arpeggiated chord articulation (not specified by the composer), particularly in molto espressivo passages. Why?

II. Andante poco moto

Excellent touch control / subtle tone, highly differentiated in the dynamics. Natural articulation, beautiful cantabile, often assisted by subtle arpeggiando articulation and slightly softened punctuations in the theme. Playful, at the same time always reflected, diligent. A movement that sounds so easy, sometimes even simple—yet musically and technically so demanding! True, on Schubert’s piano it must have been much easier to perform the demisemiquaver sextuplets really pp, subtle, if not even discreet in pp or p segments: here, on the Steinway B-211, the occasional missing tone was unavoidable (raising the volume would have been detrimental!). My only quibble is about a slight excess in sustain pedal in these fast passages—given the sonority of this instrument.

III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace — Trio: Un poco più lento

Can Çakmur took the Scherzo rather fast—at the limit: a little too fast for the articulation in the repeated quavers to remain clear. Some of the quaver figures actually started to sound superficial. Despite the fast tempo, I noted an occasional drop in tension, some slight irregularities in the musical flow in the central part (first half of the second repeat section). On the bright side: I was happy to note that the artist did both repeats.

The Trio was very atmospheric, serene, peaceful—though I felt that the arpeggiando articulation (delayed right hand) was a little too conspicuous, especially in the second part.

IV. Rondo: Allegro vivace

The artist performed this movement attacca. To me, also the last movement felt too fast: many of the quaver figures sounded superficial, hasty, lacked clarity and detail. Sure, Can Çakmur is very virtuosic—still, a slightly slower pace would have offered substantially more clarity and a more natural flow. And the coda could have been more than a blazingly fast demonstration of virtuosity, but an expression of (fatal?) despair?

Overall Rating: ★★★½

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart c. 1780
W.A. Mozart

Mozart: Piano Sonata No.13 in B♭ major, K.333 (315c)

Composer & Work

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) composed his Piano Sonata No.13 in B♭ major, K.333 (315c) in Linz (Austria), in 1783. Its three movements are

  1. Allegro
  2. Andante cantabile
  3. Allegretto grazioso

The Performance

Also after the intermission, Can Çakmur, again opened with a short (presumably improvised) preluding—this time just a few arpeggiated chords. In its briefness, that intro barely meant to attune the audience to Mozart’s sonata—but it still was long enough to get everybody’s attention. The transition to the sonata was seamless—but the contrast in gestures (arpeggio vs. Mozart’s descending motif in the opening of the theme) clear enough to avoid “mix-ups” (see above).

I. Allegro

Clarity, lightness, careful articulation, differentiated dynamics, subtle agogics: a delightful, light-footed movement! Here, the artist regretfully did not repeat the exposition. However, the proportions here are not the same as in Schubert’s sonata: the development part is relatively short (30 bars vs. 63 bars in the exposition, 72 bars recap + coda). I still would have preferred a repeat of the exposition. However, with these proportions, the artist’s decision is at least understandable

II. Andante cantabile

At a calm, contemplative pace, Can Çakmur enriched the movement with beautiful agogics and reflection in every bar: little ritenuti, a swaying rhythm, even segments that felt like short recitatives. In brief: a movement with life in every bar, every motif, devoid of superficialities!

Here, both repeats were missing—regretfully again. However, I concede that with the amount of “ornamenting agogics” in this interpretation, the movement with repeats (hence twice as long) might have felt overloaded / “too much” …

III. Allegretto grazioso

A light, virtuosic movement: I liked the fluent tempo—except that this really was the tempo for a fortepiano, with its lighter, more agile mechanics. On the modern Steinway, it is hardly possible to shape the semiquaver figures—and consequently, these sounded superficial almost throughout, lacking clarity and detail. This was particularly evident in the second (ad libitum) cadenza. I also had the impression that Can Çakmur didn’t devote nearly as much attention and care to this movement as he did with the first two parts.

My conclusion from this movement in particular: it is for good reason that artists such as Arthur Rubinstein (1887 – 1982) barely played any (or at least didn’t record much) Mozart, in particular music for piano solo. Rubinstein explicitly stated that modern concert grands are inadequate for this composer.

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Franz Liszt, 1858
Franz Liszt

Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, S.529/2

Composer & Work

In 1855, Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) composed his Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H for organ (S.260/1) which he revised in 1870 (S.260/2). He transcribed both these versions for piano, 2-hands (S.529/1 and S.529/2). This recital featured the second piano version, Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, S.529/2.

As mentioned above, I had witnessed Can Çakmur performing Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, S.529/2, already as part of a duo recital in Zurich on 2022-11-11. Within the 8 days since that performance, the basic interpretation has not changed. Therefore, I won’t repeat my comments from the previous review, but merely mention whether and how my impression from Can Çakmur’s interpretation has changed (e.g., under the influence of different acoustics and atmosphere).

The Fugue is not strictly separated from the Fantasy—it follows quasi attacca. Liszt’s score is full of accelerandi and ritardandi. However, the main tempo annotations are as follows:

  • (Fantasy:) Moderato (a capriccio) — Allegro vivace (quasi presto) — Allegro
  • (Fugue:) Andante — Allegro con brio — Animato — Allegro con brio — Più animato — Presto — Maestoso

The Performance — A Second Look

Can Çakmur @ Druckerei Baden (Piano District), 2022-11-19 (© Rolf Kyburz, All rights reserved)
Can Çakmur @ Druckerei Baden (Piano District), 2022-11-19 (© Rolf Kyburz, All rights reserved)

Interestingly, both this time, as well as in the previous concert, the Liszt Fantasy followed after a Mozart sonata. A time lapse of over 60 years—and an extreme contrast. As in Zurich, Can Çakmur mitigated that transition through his introduction.

As indicated above, it would be pointless to repeat my description of Can Çakmur’s interpretation. Still, the impression was somewhat different, though. For one, the acoustics in Baden made the piano sound warmer, more full, rounded than in Zurich—possibly at the expense of some clarity. Overall, I liked the acoustics in Baden better than those in the Aula of Zurich University, where I had a similar position relative to the instrument. The distance to the instrument was bigger in Baden, though.

The repeat experience as such also caused some shift in focus and attention. And in Baden, it wasn’t that much of an “al fresco” impression, of course. A little detail that I hadn’t paid attention to in Zurich: in the Allegro part of the Fantasy, Can Çakmur selected the ossia version in bars 55 – 65.

As in Zurich, Can Çakmur exploited all the sonority that the instrument could offer. And, not surprisingly, also here, some passages (such as the lowest bass sequences after the climax in the Fantasy) made me wish for a full-size concert grand. Still, in some sections, Can Çakmur deployed truly orchestral sonority. There were even moments where to me, the sonority felt “bigger than the organ”—though that may have been because one may not expect that much sound and complexity from a grand piano.

Rating: ★★★★½

Dimitri Mitropoulos (public domain)
Dimitri Mitropoulos

Mitropoulos: Passacaglia, Preludio e Fuga (1924)

Composer & Work

Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896 – 1960) is mostly known as a conductor. However, he also was an excellent pianist, as well as a composer. He was born in Athens, Greece, where he also studied music, later continuing in Brussels and in Berlin. One of his teachers was Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924). In Berlin, he was assistant to the conductor Erich Kleiber (1890 – 1956) at the Berlin State Opera.

In 1936, he debuted in the United States, settling there and becoming a U.S. citizen in 1946. He was principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (1937 – 1949). After that, he was associated with the New York Philharmonic, initially working with Leopold Stokowski (1882 – 1977). In 1949, he became the principal conductor. 1958, he was succeeded by his protégé, Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990).

Dimitri Mitropoulos’ compositorial oeuvre consists of orchestral works, solo works for piano, as well as orchestral arrangements of organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). The latter is no surprise, given his association with Ferruccio Busoni, as well as Leopold Stokowski. His Passacaglia, Preludio e Fuga from 1924 is one of Mitropoulos’ most important compositions. It is not a Bach transcription, but obviously inspired by Bach’s organ works.

Can Çakmur & Oliver Schnyder @ Druckerei Baden (Piano District), 2022-11-19 (© Rolf Kyburz, All rights reserved)
Can Çakmur & Oliver Schnyder @ Druckerei Baden (Piano District), 2022-11-19 (© Rolf Kyburz, All rights reserved)

The Performance

Throughout the recital, Can Çakmur performed from memory. The one exception to this was Dimitri Mitropoulos’ Passacaglia, Preludio e Fuga, which the artist played from sheet music—on a tablet. Still, turning pages might have been too much of a distraction. So, here, the organizer, Oliver Schnyder, served as (virtual) page turner. I don’t have the score for Mitropoulos’ composition. Therefore, my comments just describe my personal impressions.


The Passacaglia theme: a dark, somber, but also solemn theme in the lowest bass, with vaguely defined tonality (though, by its very nature cycling around the same “home tone”). The Passacaglia theme persists in its, while the right hand injects dissonant, strictly atonal chords. As the right hand ascends into the descant, so does the bass theme, by moving into higher octaves. It then moves back into the deep bass register, while in the descant, the chords dissolve into trills and tremolos, building up volume and density, dissonant polyphony in waves: bass, clusters, and an endless melody at the top.

At the climax, the Passacaglia theme moves into the center, among criss-crossing scales and cluster sequences, reaching the sonoric capacity of the instrument. A power-draining, complex piece. It’s dissonant, sure—though, amazingly, it doesn’t really feel that way! Was it just my impression, or did the composer really allude to the B-A-C-H theme while the texture relaxes and calms down? In any case, as the theme faded away in the lowest bass, it felt harmonious, warm, even tonal, “coming home” with a descending fifth.


The Preludio starts as a playful piece. Soon, though, it evolves into highly complex, with wide-spanning passages, mixed with scattered, dissonant clusters. Affirmative episodes alternating with “chatty” ones. Towering, impressive sound waves / eruptions. At the culmination, the music breaks off, letting the resonances from the extremes of the keyboard decay, fade away.


In its length, span and complexity, the (first) fugue theme strongly reminded me of fugue themes from early, “wild & adventurous” organ compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). Of course, the theme is devoid of tonality. The fugue rapidly evolves into a dense web of voices, in 4, possibly 5 parts (hard to tell in the first encounter). Can Çakmur’s ability to “fetch out” the fugue theme in such dense and complex polyphony was very impressive. Equally impressive was the overwhelming sonority, the sheer volume that the pianist was able to evoke from the instrument. The build-up seemed endless, continuous—it kept adding, adding, until it appeared to converge into new, chorale-like theme—to a sudden ending in a long fermata.

Rating: ★★★★½

Ferruccio Busoni (public domain)
Ferruccio Busoni
Johann Sebastian Bach, ca. 1722
J.S. Bach

Bach / Busoni: “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”, BWV 639 / BV B 27/5

Composer & Work

Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and teacher. He produced a large compositorial oeuvre, from solo piano works up to concertos, orchestral works, up to opera. Besides his original compositions, he also wrote cadenzas to classical concertos, plus a vast number of transcriptions for piano, organ, and orchestra. One of these is his Transcription of Bach’s Chorale Prelude for Organ “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 / BV B 27/5. This appeared in 1898, as part of a collection of “Ten Chorale Preludes for organ”.

The Performance

Can Çakmur continued directly with Bach’s beautiful chorale melody. It felt as if Mitropoulos’ towering complexity suddenly dissolved into soothing, warm harmony and emotions, like a closing, begging prayer. True, Busoni densified and “spiced” up the chords—but this was totally appropriate, even ideal here. Bach’s original might have sounded banal, Busoni’s transcription was the better fit to the preceding harmonic complexity. Redemption and transfiguration—beautiful!

Rating: ★★★★½

Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johann Sebastian Bach, ca. 1722
J.S. Bach

Encore — Brahms: Bach’s Chaconne from BWV 1004, arr. for the Left Hand Alone

Composer & Work

Among the spurious works by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), there are two books of Studien (studies, probably not in the usual sense of Études). The first book includes two Studien (composed 1852 and 1862), the second book from 1877 features three more. The Studien in the second book are transcriptions of movements for violin solo by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). The last of these is based upon the fifth movement, the famous Chaconne (Ciaccona) from the Partita No.2 for Violin Solo in D minor, BWV 1004. Brahms’ study is a transcription for the left hand alone.

The Performance

With the encore, Can Çakmur took the audience back into the early 18th century, with Bach’s famous Chaconne—in Brahms’ transcription for the left hand alone. It may be “pure baroque”—however, by moving it from the violin to the piano and restricting it ot the left hand only, Brahms turned this into a piece of challenging pianistic artistry. Needless to say that it is beautiful, touching music!

If I remember correctly, Can Çakmur stated that he selected this long encore, because he always had wanted to play it in concert.

My personal thoughts: even though the original is for violin alone, the transcription for the left hand has limitations (Brahms needed to shift voices, etc.)—to me, it remained a (maybe somewhat academic) study (I prefer Busoni’s transcription of the Chaconne—for two hands). That impression probably had several origins: limitations in the transcription, in addition, the occasional, omitted notes, most likely signs of exhaustion from Liszt’s and Mitropoulos’ works. Finally: after these works, the instrument definitely was in need of a thorough re-tuning.

Rating: ★★★★½


The author would like to express his gratitude to the organizer, Piano District, Baden, in particular its founder and artistic director, the pianist Oliver Schnyder, for the press tickets to this concert.

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