Piano Recital Jaeden Izik-Dzurko
Bach/Liszt, Liszt, Rachmaninoff

Aula der Universität, Zurich, 2024-04-11

4.5-star rating

2024-04-27 — Original posting

Jaeden Izik-Dzurko (source: www.jaedenizikdzurko.com)
Jaeden Izik-Dzurko (source: www.jaedenizikdzurko.com)
Jaeden Izik-Dzurko: Klavierrezital mit Liszt und Rachmaninoff in Zürich — Zusammenfassung

Der 1999 in British Columbia geborene kanadische Pianist Jaeden Izik-Dzurko stellte sich dem Zürcher Publikum in der Aula der Universität vor. Er spielte Werke von Bach/Liszt, Liszt, und Rachmaninoff. Der erste Teil des Konzerts war Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) und Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) gewidmet. Zunächst erklang Liszts Klavierbearbeitung (S.462/1) von Bachs Präludium und Fuge für Orgel in a-moll, BWV 543. Als erstes Hauptwerk des Abends folgte Liszts populäre Klaviersonate in h-moll, S.178—ein Eckpfeiler des romantischen Klavierrepertoires.

Der zweite Teil des Konzerts war ganz der Klaviersonate Nr.1 in d-moll, op.28 von Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) gewidmet. Eine Komposition, die leider im Schatten ihres bekannteren Schwesterwerks, der Klaviersonate Nr.2 in b-moll, op.36, steht. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko bot hier eine technisch und musikalisch durchweg überzeugende Interpretation. Getrübt wurde sie lediglich durch Schwächen in der Stimmung des Steinway B-211. Für die Zugabe blieb der Pianist bei Rachmaninoff. Er wählte das Prélude in D-dur, op.23/4 (Andante cantabile): ein wunderbarer, stimmungsvoller Abschluss eines interessanten Klavierabends!

Table of Contents


Venue, Date & TimeAula der Universität, Zurich, 2024-04-11 19:30h
Series / TitleMusik an ETHZ und UZH — Piano Recital Jaeden Izik-Dzurko
OrganizerMusical Discovery
Reviews from related eventsRecitals in the Main Convention Hall at Zurich University
Previous Concerts in the Series “Musik an der ETH und UZH

The Artist

Jaeden Izik-Dzurko is a Canadian pianist, born 1999 in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in New York, with Yoheved Kaplinsky (*1947). He then completed his Master of Music degree at the University of British Columbia with Corey Hamm. The artist is currently continuing his studies with Jacob Leuschner at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold, and with Benedetto Lupo at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. At the same time, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko has successfully launched a career as soloist. He has performed with major orchestras, notably in Spain and Canada. He has also given solo recitals in prominent venues in London, Paris, Madrid, and at Carnegie Hall.

During the last 3 years, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko has been successful in several competitions. He won first prizes at the 2022 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, the 2022 Maria Canals International Music Competition. At the 20th Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition he won not only the first prize, but also the Canon Audience Prize, and the Chamber Music Award. He is also a Grand Prize winner at the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals’ National Competition, a winner of Juilliard’s Gina Bachauer Scholarship Competition, and more. For biographical details please visit the artist’s homepage.


Setting, etc.

The recital took place in the Aula (main convention hall) in the main building of the University of Zurich. The instrument was the university’s mid-size Steinway grand piano (B-211).

Concert & Review

Franz Liszt, 1858
Franz Liszt
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach / Liszt: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 / S.462/1

Composer & Work

In his early years, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar. It was during these years (1708 – 1713) that Bach composed his Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543, one of his greatest and most famous organ works. Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886), who had been familiar with Bach’s oeuvre since his early youth. In 1839 – 1840 Liszt transcribed the “6 great Preludes and Fugues, BWV 543 – 548” for piano, two hands. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko opened his recital with Liszt’s transcription, S.462/1. Liszt did not add any additional annotations to the two movements:

  1. Prelude (4/4)
  2. Fuga (6/8)

The Performance

The artist’s appearance: modest, sober, almost inconspicuous. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko swiftly entered the room, briefly accepted the welcome applause, and then sat down at the instrument. From then on, he seemed to pay little attention to the audience, concentrating instead on the keyboard and the music. He performed the entire recital from memory, often keeping his eyes closed or gazing down at the keys. Occasionally, he glanced into the instrument, never at the audience. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko avoided body movement and grand gestures. From my position, I could barely ever see his hands move above the instrument. Even his facial mimics rarely expressed more than sustained focus and attention. The artist never smiled before the end of his recital, only contracting his eyebrows at moments that required special attention etc.

I. Prelude

An interesting transformation from Bach to Liszt’s romantic piano view! The first bars reflect the purity of Bach’s opening line: simple, mellow, flowing, legato. The “piano aspect” entered through a decrescendo to an intimate transition to the triplet segment in bar 4. There the articulation and tone turned more “grippy”, building up again towards the “A,” drone. At this point, the sustain pedal added extra sonority, which reached its first climax in the tremolo in bar 23.

The bass octaves in bars 24 – 28 weren’t thundering excessively, yet pictured a powerful organ pedal solo. The harmonious, large dynamic waves reflected primarily the characteristics of the piano (as opposed to the organ). On the organ, the prelude is an excellent example of Bach’s use of the Stylus fantasticus, so typical of many of his early organ works. Here, the sustain pedal (for the long organ pedal drones) produced a full, resonant sound, broad, all-encompassing sonority. Combined with the dynamic waves and rubato, the result did not feel so much like Stylus fantasticus: it lacked the erratic outbursts in the latter. Rather, I sensed romantic piano preluding—controlled, yet free and highly expressive. A good example was the almost intimate p in bar 25 and in the following soft passages between the ample waves.

I don’t want to blame the pianist for not playing “Bach proper”. This is Liszt’s way of trying to demonstrate / produce the overwhelming sonority of the organ while at the same time adding romantic traits, moments of intimacy and warmth (e.g., the soft, dreamy coda!). And impressive it was, exploiting the full sonority of the Steinway B.

II. Fugue

The fugue followed almost attacca. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko approached it in a calm, unexcited manner, visually almost introverted, except for a very slight body swaying. Here, too, the “emotional span” seemed wider than on the organ, especially in the soft episodes. This made moments like the beginning of the exposition in bar 96, with the theme in powerful bass octaves, all the more impressive. Again, at the climax with the fff bass octaves in bars 139ff, the pianist pushed the instrument to the limit in terms of power / volume.

As mentioned with the Prelude: one should not look for a reproduction of Bach’s organ composition, but rather for Franz Liszt’s personal, romantic view onto Bach’s composition. Sure, the backbone is Bach. But the expression, the extensive use of crescendo / decrescendo, of legato, the effect of the sustain pedal are primarily Liszt’s (or, more generally, the Romantic) view. Of course, this also applies to the continuous dynamic waves. Bach’s organs did not have the swell box that is present in typical Romantic organs. In other words: Bach’s organ works imply terraced dynamics—whether (most obviously) by switching between manuals, or (more subtly) by adding or subtracting stops.

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Franz Liszt, 1858
Franz Liszt

Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor, S.178

Composer & Work

This is not the first time that I listened to the Sonata in B minor, S.178 by Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886). For earlier concert performances and information on the sonata see my earlier postings. The sonata is not split into movements. Rather, it features the following suite of tempo annotations and time signatures:

  • Lento assai (4/4) —
  • Allegro energico (2/2) —
  • Grandioso (3/2 — 4/4) —
  • Recitativo (3/2 — 2/2) —
  • Andante sostenuto (3/4) —
  • Quasi Adagio (4/4 — 3/4) —
  • Allegro energico (2/2) —
  • Più mosso (2/2 — 3/2) —
  • Cantando espressivo, senza slentare (4/4) —
  • Stretta quasi Presto
  • Presto
  • Prestissimo (4/4 — 3/2) —
  • Andante sostenuto (3/4) —
  • Allegro moderato (4/4) —
  • Lento assai

The Performance

Lento assai

I liked Jaeden Izik-Dzurko’s tempo in the opening bar: sotto voce, tension / expectation, but not overly theatrical. The slurred, descending figures made me wonder whether it really was the composer’s intention to have the sustain pedal depressed for most or all of the slur? After the concert, I checked several recordings. I found that older, “classical” interpretations opt for little (or no) sustain pedal, while many of today’s younger artists take a more “romantic”, sonorous approach, typically holding the pedal for at least the duration of the g/G octave. Personally, I prefer a “drier” approach—but I’m not the expert to decide what’s “right”.

Allegro energico

The Allegro energico began with two mishaps, that may have caused some minor irritation in the following bars. In the agitato build-up to ff and above, especially in the (right-hand) chords between the semiquaver outpourings, there may have been some loss of touch precision. In addition, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko definitely pushed the instrument to its limits, if not beyond, even before the ff triple octaves and the first fff climax.


This first major, even central section of the sonata begins with an (obviously) grandiose theme (3/2), ff, which continues to build to fff and above. And—not surprisingly—the artist once again seemed to be trying to squeeze the maximum (and more) out of the instrument in terms of volume and power: too loud? Too loud for this piano? In comparison, I liked the following lyrical / expressive section much better, although in the cantando espressivo the cantilena didn’t really need to be so prominent. In the descant, the instrument often showed harshness: was this marginal regulation, or rather the artist’s touch? Of course, the climax (sempre ff / con strepito / stringendo / marcatissimo / fff pesante) was again very loud…

RecitativoAndante sostenutoQuasi Adagio

After the first recitative “attempt”, Liszt’s four-bar marcato insertion was very forceful: it’s “only” ff—shouldn’t this be more of a reminiscence than an eruption? The two recitatives, however, were very atmospheric, especially in the pp moments. In the Quasi Adagio, was this really ppp / dolcissimo con intimo sentimento, and later pp — dolcissimo? Soon the descant returned to its exaggerated prominence, with hardness and steely sound. I also noticed a slight deterioration in the descant’s tuning.

Allegro energicoPiù mossoCantando espressivo, senza slentareStretta quasi PrestoPrestoPrestissimo

There is no doubt that Jaeden Izik-Dzurko’s technical abilities and skills are impressive, astounding. By the time he reached the fugato section (Allegro energico), the initial mishaps were long forgotten. The artist chose a fast, rather challenging tempo—to the point where the semiquaver and demisemiquaver triplet upbeats often felt superficial, and the longer semiquaver passages began to lose clarity. A demonstration of virtuosity and technical dexterity? Or was the performer getting carried away, exceeding not only the capacity of the instrument, but also the volume required for this medium-sized venue?

Andante sostenutoAllegro moderatoLento assai

The sonata retreats into a withdrawn, almost forlorn conclusion. This ending felt redemptive, reconciling the listener with the hardships of Liszt’s overwhelming climaxes.

Overall Rating: ★★★★

General Thoughts

Even though I was not sitting directly in front of the instrument and therefore did not get the “full blast”, my primary impression was often one of “loud”, even “too loud”. Yes, the sonata is a cornerstone of the piano repertoire—but that does not justify the use of ffff and beyond on a modern grand. I don’t think that great volume, sheer power and loudness are the primary means of approaching this sonata. One should also bear in mind that Franz Liszt’s instruments definitely had less volume (and a richer color palette, more overtones). At the very least, I think Jaeden Izik-Dzurko should have adjusted the dynamics to the capacity of the mid-size grand. In fact, after the intermission, the instrument’s intonation seemed to have deteriorated noticeably, probably as a result of the hard touch, the excessive force used in this sonata.

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No.1 in D minor, op.28

Composer & Work

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) composed his Piano Sonata No.1 in D minor, op.28, in 1908, during his four-year stay (1906 – 1910) in Dresden, Germany. The sonata was first performewd in Moscow, on 1908-10-17, by the Russian pianist and teacher Konstantin Nikolayevich Igumnov (1873 – 1948). The sonata is in three movements, with the following major tempo annotations:

  1. Allegro moderato — Meno mosso — Allegro — Moderato — Più mosso — Tempo I — Moderato — Allegro molto — Moderato
  2. Lento — Più mosso — Tempo I
  3. Allegro molto — Meno mosso — Moderato — Più mosso — Più vivo — Tempo I — Meno mosso

The Performance

I. Allegro moderato — Meno mosso — Allegro — Moderato — Più mosso — Tempo I — Moderato — Allegro molto — Moderato

First impressions of the Allegro moderato introduction: legato, lots of sustain pedal, almost covering most of the eighth and quarter rests, and then blurring the intervals in the brief meno mosso section. This observation may also be related to the shift from Liszt to Rachmaninoff’s late romantic writing. I may have been overly critical in the first part of the movement, based on my experience with the Liszt Sonata before the intermission. Soon, however, I found Jaeden Izik-Dzurko’s Rachmaninoff to be more coherent, more convincing, not only in phrasing and articulation, but in dynamics in general.

I was particularly struck by the artist’s differentiated multi-level dynamics—for example, how he managed to bring out a melody hidden in the midst of intricate, complex and virtuosic textures. And these melodies, even if they were often merely motifs: beautiful, so beautiful, so typical Rachmaninoff, reminiscent of the melancholic themes in the composer’s piano concertos!

Did the pianist perhaps realize that he had pushed the dynamics too far in the Liszt Sonata? Did he feel more “at home” with this music? Or was it simply that Rachmaninoff had composed this music for (an instrument close to) the modern concert grand? Certainly, the notion of “too much power” did not recur here. What remained, however, was that the tuning flaws were now unfortunately even more pronounced, probably exacerbated by Rachmaninoff’s tendency to use textures that cover large areas of the keyboard.

II. Lento — Più mosso — Tempo I

Beautiful playing, not too slow, with intensely singing cantilenas. Once again a wonderful invention. The melodic content often consists of short fragments / simple motifs which also refer back to the first movement. However, these are embedded in intricate, wide-ranging polyrhythmic textures. Dreaming, melancholy, longing, desire…

The one “hair in the soup” was once again the tuning of the instrument, especially in the descant (and rather irritatingly in the mf in the third last bar).

III. Allegro molto — Meno mosso — Moderato — Più mosso — Più vivo — Tempo I — Meno mosso

I can summarize my experience of this technically demanding, power-draining and virtuosic movement as simply excellent, outstanding. Clarity, dynamic control in the broad dynamic waves, up to the towering climaxes. Unlike in the Liszt Sonata, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko (again) avoided pushing the Steinway B-211 beyond its limits (except for the fff bars at the very end). The Moderato created an island of calm in the midst of all the virtuosity and excitement: quiet, reflective, melancholic, but never losing its tension. The Più mosso gradually built up suspense / expectations again, still holding back. A brief and surprising Più vivo intervention ends after three bars. Only the second Più vivo definitively ends the contemplative section.

The next development leads to the return of the opening theme (Tempo I): powerful, virtuosic. Jaeden Izik-Dzurko maintained clarity, showed excellent control of dynamics, not only in the broad waves, but also in the sudden eruptions, as well as in the recurring quiet, reflective moments. Unfortunately, the latter were most affected by the deteriorating tuning. Bad tuning aside, I found this to be a masterful, “integrated” and coherent, compelling interpretation. Congratulations!

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No.1 never reached the popularity of his Sonata No.2 in B♭ minor, op.36. The thematic material is simpler, more fragmented. Nevertheless, it is beautiful music that deserves to be played more often, and Jaeden Izik-Dzurko’s performance certainly confirmed this!

Encore — Rachmaninoff: Prélude in D major, op.23/4

Composer & Work

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943): 10 Préludes, op.23Prélude No.4 in D major (Andante cantabile). I have written about concert performances (3 concerts, 2 artists) of this Prélude in several blog posts.

The Performance

Jaeden Izik-Dzurko ended his recital with an encore. Not surprisingly, he stayed with Sergei Rachmaninoff, choosing a true gem from the 10 Préludes, op.23—the Prélude No.4, Andante cantabile: serene, calm, melodious, intensely expressive in the climax—simply beautiful, otherworldly. An ideal conclusion to this recital!

Jaeden Izik-Dzurko @ Zurich University, 2024-04-11 (© Rolf Kyburz, all rights reserved)


Jaeden Izik-Dzurko is an excellent, very promising young artist. If I have made critical remarks (especially for the first part), it is because of the inherent limitations of the instrument, and the deterioration of the tuning. The university insists that this instrument be used for recitals and concerts.


The author would like to thank the organizer, Nina Orotchko / Musical Discovery, for free admission to this concert.

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