A strong Piano 2024 final in perspective

A strong Piano 2024 final in perspective
A strong Piano 2024 final in perspective

It is with the Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Xian Zhang that the last six candidates for Piano 2024 will appear at the Maison symphonique on and Thursday evening. Among them, the last Canadian hope, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko, in a competition won since 2002 several times by singers from here but never by an instrumentalist.

For its last edition, in 2023, the former director of the Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM), Christiane LeBlanc, had the chance to set off with violin fireworks, the Ukrainian Dmytro Udovychenko winning an edition of very high caliber where even the impeccable Israeli Michael Shaham, with his radiant sonic charm, was unable to rise to the height of a podium otherwise occupied by the Koreans SongHa Choi and SooBeen Lee.

We are likely to find ourselves with a puzzle of this type on Thursday evening, at the end of the two evenings which will pit the Anglo-Korean Elias Ackerley, the Polish Jakub Kuszlik, the Italian Gabriele Strata and the two Americans Anthony Ratinov and Derek Wang, to Canadian Jaeden Izik-Dzurko.

The man to beat

We can thus present the portrait of these two evenings since by revealing the “intermediate prizes” of the sonata and the compulsory work, won by the Canadian, the organizers more or less revealed that Jaeden Izik-Dzurko is the candidate for beat. But the jury also told us something else by awarding the Chamber Music Prize to Gabriele Strata. He asked us to listen to this musician as he listens to music being made.

What distinguishes the Italian pianist, especially in his semi-final, alone or with peers, is a precious and rare thing: a true philosophy of sound. The notion is palpable for everyone comparing, with the help of the videos available on the CMIM website, its 3e Sonata by Brahms with that of Jakub Kuszlik.

Despite the Pole’s eminent pianistic qualities and muscular Brahms, two or three minutes are enough to understand the difference in sound ethics and the precious art of the Italian. It is all the more surprising to see him appear in the final with the 1er Concerto of Tchaikovsky, while one would have hoped for it in The emperor by Beethoven or the 1er by Brahms.

Obviously the sound, or what we called in 2022, the “rare instinct for the vocalization of music”, also distinguishes Jaeden Izik-Dzurko. We had already spotted it in the echoes of the Maria Canals competition in 2022, and subsequently at the OSM Competition where only a form of surrealism in the thinking or the value system of the jury (Angela Hewitt, Mari Kodama, Isolde Lagacé, Gillian Moore, Rico Gulda, for the record ad libitum) had landed him in second place.

Tchaikovsky to judge

From this point of view, it would also have been interesting if this 2024 edition served to “sort” the talents here a little. As it stands, based on the performances seen in recent months, the prodigy Kevin Chen, despite the aura of his awards, does not weigh heavily musically against Izik-Dzurko, whose 1D Sonata of Rachmaninov in the semi-final was indeed stunning.

In the final, we will hear Ackerley, Ratinov and Strata on Wednesday, that is to say twice the 1er Concerto of Tchaikovsky framing the 3e by Prokofiev. In the semi-final, Ackerley impressed us most in his Fauré of the chamber music test and in the very difficult Corelli Variations of Rachmaninov that in theOpus 110 by Beethoven, while Ratinov distinguished himself by a refined sense of programming a very interesting mini-recital.

Thursday will follow Derek Wang in Tchaikovsky, Izik-Dzurko in the 2e by Brahms (Serhiy Salov’s winning concerto in 2004) and Jakub Kuszlik with the 2e by Rachmaninov. Kuszlik made a strong impression at the Chopin Competition in the concerto test and we are curious to see in concerto the intrepid Wang, who dared to measure himself against the Sonata “Hammerklavier” in the semi-final.

Piano 2024

Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Xian Zhang. At the Maison symphonique, May 15 and 16, 7:30 p.m.

To watch on video

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