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Vancouver Recital Society
Presenting Jaeden Izik-Dzurko
When: Sept. 10, 3 p.m.
Where: Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St., Vancouver
The new season of the Vancouver Recital Society begins a bit on the early side, Sunday Sept. 10, with a solo piano recital of music by Schubert, Chopin, Ravel, and Medtner, performed by 24-year-old Jaeden Izik-Dzurko.
Young performers on the fast track to important careers are essential fare for the VRS, and savvy listeners know to pay particular attention to those making their debuts for the Society. Izik-Dzurko is an artist from Salmon Arm, who is already making international waves.
Why invite him to inaugurate the new season? VRS founder Leila Getz replies: “I did so because I think he shows a special talent. And opening with a performer from British Columbia makes a statement. It’s all part of having the courage of your convictions.”
As a B.C. pianist born and bred, Izik-Dzurko reversed standard educational development, going first to Juilliard in New York as a student of Yoheved Kaplinsky, then returning to Vancouver for a master’s program at the University of British Columbia.
“My primary reason for returning was to spend additional time studying with my wonderful teacher Corey Hamm,” Jaeden explained to me in a hurried phone conversation between flights in Europe.
“I first played for Dr. Hamm when I was 14 and preparing for my orchestral debut. Since then, he has helped shape me into the pianist that I am today. I have enormous respect for his artistic instincts and his approach to music.”
Izik-Dzurko’s first gig for the VRS took place in the thick of the COVID-era shutdowns: a recorded short program streamed for subscribers. Invited to observe the proceedings, I was particularly taken with the young pianist’s feeling for Rachmaninov, demonstrating both an unusual rapport with his material and a detailed understanding of the Romantic Russian idiom. He’s been on my personal watch list ever since.
Music from the “Silver Age” of Tzarist Russia still holds a particular fascination for Jaeden. At UBC last December he presented a spectacular tour de force, playing — from memory — all 10 piano sonatas by Alexandre Scriabin.
Part of any pianist’s career strategy is participating in and, perhaps, winning competitions. Last year Izik-Dzurko came out on top in several: the 2022 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, the Maria Canals International Music Competition, and the Santandar International Piano Competition. One of the perks of the latter win was a date to perform with the Barcelona-based Casals Quartet at London’s Wigmore Hall.
What’s in store for Izik-Dzurko’s actual VRS concert debut?
“I proposed a number of pieces to Leila Getz, and together we crafted a beautiful and varied program,” he explained, starting with some intimate Schubert and ending with Ravel’s Mirroirs and the first Chopin Scherzo.
Along the way there’s Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata Romantica, a 25-minute behemoth finished in 1930, the 12th of the composer’s 14 piano sonatas.
“I didn’t become especially interested in Medtner’s work until midway through my undergraduate degree,” Izik-Dzurko told me. “Thanks to a friend at Juilliard who’s an enthusiastic interpreter of his music, I’ve since grown to admire Medtner’s refined and idiomatic use of the keyboard, his attention to musical detail, and the sophistication of his formal construction. The Sonata Romantica is full of interconnected ideas and thematic transformation, producing a monumental, unified musical journey.”
Of course Jaeden is in the beginning stages of his musical journey, so I couldn’t resist asking about the vicissitudes of life on the road, or, these days, waiting around in airports.
“It’s certainly tiring,” he admits. “But I am finding it easier the more I do it. And the opportunities to share my music with others and to improve as a performer make it more than worthwhile.”