Young, Turkish-born, American-trained pianist Korkmaz Can Sağlam won the People’s Choice Award in the 2023 Sydney International Piano Competition, and it is easy to hear why: he is a highly simpatico Chopin pianist.

He is also a very fine Bach pianist. This Sydney Festival debut concert was built around Bach: the centrepiece was Bach’s Partita in B♭, BWV 825. That was preceded by Liszt’s piano transcription of Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (originally for organ), and two of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87. The recital concluded with 12 Preludes from Chopin’s Op. 28 (Nos. 13 to 24).

Korkmaz Can Sağlam at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2023. Photo © Jaimi Joy

Sağlam, like many young pianists, is fond of the big statement. The Liszt transcription suited this approach: in fact, the piece sounded more like original Liszt than Bach. I would be intrigued to hear him play some (or all) of Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage. The B♭ Partita (a suite of dances in six movements) was played in a Romantic way to some extent (but beautifully), with hairpin dynamics and slight pauses at the end...