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Recital
FAN RETURNS TO OAKMONT IN AN ECLECTIC RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 11, 2016
New York-based pianist Joel Fan hasn’t been a stranger to Sonoma County, having played in both the Concerts Grand and Music at Oakmont venues. February 11 he returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in an eclectic and often electric recital before 200. Beginning with Ginastera’s first Sonata Op. 22...
Recital
BACH AND BUXTEHUDE ORGAN MASTERY IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by James Harrod
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Stanford University organist Robert Huw Morgan played an exciting and interesting program of Baroque music in Schroeder Hall January 31, performing the entire concert with faultless virtuosity. The recital’s program consisted of both familiar and unfamiliar selections, and his choices were familiar...
Symphony
VSO SEASON FINALE FEATURES COMMANDING CONDUCTING
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 31, 2016
New Zealand conductor Marc Taddei led the Vallejo Symphony Jan. 31 in “The Composer's Muse,” a program that emphasized the uniqueness of each selection, in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium. An audience of nearly 350 was the largest in the past two seasons. The concert marks the last of three audition co...
Chamber
SCHUMANN'S INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS IN SCHROEDER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, January 30, 2016
An ensemble of five outstanding musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented Jan. 30 a program "Schumann The Intimate Conversationalist" program to a rapt and delighted audience in Schroeder Hall. On entering the hall there was on stage the sight of an exquisite Viennese fortepiano ...
Symphony
SOLO AND ENSEMBLE BRASS PEAL POWERFULLY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Known for its novel programming, the Sonoma County Philharmonic has frequently engaged local soloists, with flutist Kathleen Reynolds and pianists Lauren Xie and Marilyn Thompson coming quickly to mind. In their Jan. 23 concert, featuring German composers, conductor Norman Gamboa united a rare mid 1...
Recital
INSPIRED SCHUBERT IN BRILLIANT HAMELIN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, January 22, 2016
In addition his brilliant pianism, Marc-André Hamelin has built a substantial international career by embracing unconventional repertoire and innovative transcriptions. Who else plays Catoire, Hofmann, Chopin-Godowsky, Dukas, Medtner and…Hamelin? So the Canadian’s Jan. 22 Weill Hall recital was a ...
Choral and Vocal
NEW ABS MARIN SEASON A BACH FEAST
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 22, 2016
Playing to a full house Jan. 22 at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, the American Bach Soloists launched its twenty-seventh season with a program of four Bach Favorites - two delectable instrumental compositions sandwiched between a pair of cantatas that ABS had performed in its very first concert....
Choral and Vocal
MEDITATIONS ON THE ARTIST
by Mark Kratz
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Schroeder Hall's vocal recital Jan. 17 centered on the life of the artist, and tenor Nicholas Phan described the recital as “meditations on the artist” that highlighted the concepts of hypersensitivity and a sense of child-like wonder that many artists experience. The entire first half of the rec...
Chamber
PRIMA TRIO'S COLORFUL MIX AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER
by Kate Gilpin
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Softly falling rain and a glimpse of rain-green trees through the windows of the Mount Tamalpais Methodist Church was the ideal background for a stunning Mill Valley Chamber Music Society performance Jan. 17. The Prima Trio, a young group comprising transplants from Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Russia...
Chamber
SCINTILLATING SCHUBERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Audience members in Weill Jan. 16 that expecting a balanced, albeit conservative chamber music evening received a slight surprise with a scintillating Schubert Trio that upstaged two otherwise splendid works. Schubert a surprise? In the hands of violinist Joseph Swenson, cellist Carter Brey and en...
RECITAL REVIEW
Jon Nakamatsu / Sunday, October 23, 2011
Jon Nakamatsu, piano

Jon Nakamatsu Playing Liszt's Sonetto Del Petrarca No. 123 (G. Louie Photo)

THRILLING PIANISM IN NAKAMATSU'S CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL AT SRJC

by John Metz
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jon Nakamatsu is a pianist that does everything well, and proved as much in his Oct. 23 Newman Auditorium recital that launched the final Concerts Grand recital season. Other pianists may have greater orchestral power, or more tonal colors, or faster left-hand octaves, but Mr. Nakamatsu, arguably the North Bay’s most popular virtuoso, has a faultless musical and technical approach to the works he programs.

Before a standing-room audience packed with musicians he began with Rameau’s haunting Gavotte with Variations, exhibiting a crystalline Baroque touch and artful execution of ornamentation. His control of embellishments never distorted the line and he often in ornaments used descending rolled chords, an uncommon choice but I think telling. His pedaling in the Rameau, as throughout the recital, was discrete and was just enough to get the desired tone without overwhelming this delicate music. In the Second Variation the tempo was quick, giving the artist some difficulty with the rising left-hand scale figures. The fast pace continued in the exciting Fifth and Sixth Variations, quasi toccata in style, and occasionally a few repeated notes didn’t sound, perhaps sacrificed for the sake rhythmic energy. A perfect piece to start the program.

Brahms’ granitic C Major Sonata came next, probably a local premiere as it’s rarely performed in favor of the F Minor Sonata or the Handel Variations. It’s an extroverted work throughout, the poignant second theme being pure young Brahms and composed at age 19. Mr. Nakamatsu played the first movement with complete control over his tone quality, shining in lyrical passages, and I appreciated the repeat of the exposition. It sounded organic rather than arbitrary or customary. In general the sound was classical rather than romantic, but at times in the burlier passages the playing was a bit careful. In the development some moments of embellishment figurations could have been more whimsical and extemporaneous.

The antiphonal Minnesong that proceeds into a series of variations had a plaintive, mystical quality, the pianist’s tone chaste. The Scherzo was a vibrant technical display with crisp and detached right-hand chords. Mr. Nakamatsu was aiming for clarity, using a secco touch, and in the Trio the clear execution of three sound planes (high melody, medium tremolo chords, and low bassline/counter melody) were all contrapuntally distinguishable.

The finale with its frequent wicked leaps to dense chords requires a brave performer, and the pianist was up to the task, playing with grand sweep and vigor. In summary, a rousing performance of a knotty work, controlled yet passionate, a sonata new to most of the audience.

After intermission the popular Liszt Sonetti Del Petrarca were played, beginning with the rhapsodic No. 47. Here Mr. Nakamatsu was in his element, mixing lyricism, drama and pathos, never overplaying the contrasts. Sonetto No. 104 is everyone’s favorite and received here a heartfelt and touching performance. In this work everything, from simple melody sections to romantic cadenza-like outbursts, sounded organic. The artist has great thirds and a deft pedal, the latter on display in the elegant and nostalgic Sonetto No. 123. This was perhaps the finest playing of the afternoon with amazing piano and pianissimo command and at times an absolutely ethereal tone. Breathtaking.

The best of the afternoon? Maybe, but the closing Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante in E, Op. 22, of Chopin, is a work Mr. Nakamatsu “owns” and one that he has recorded and played all over the world. The ne plus ultra Op. 22 is Hofmann’s iconic 1937 Golden Jubilee recording, where in the old pianistic style the Andante is played on the fast side and the Polonaise is a more subdued dance. The modern style is the opposite, and Mr. Nakamatsu is a thoroughly modern pianist, and he played the Andante exquisitely, the arabesque-like embellishments sounding free and the theme sweetly singing over a ruminating left hand. The chorale middle section was briskly elegant, leading effortlessly to the repetition and the pompous fanfare that is a bridge between the work’s two sections. This is an effervescent Polish dance, a Polonaise of lighthearted fun. The artist himself seemed to be having fun playing it and showing the audience a good time. The swirling, humorous and never-ending coda was sensationally played, the vehement final five E Flat chords bringing the crowd to its feet in a thunderous ovation.

I sense the artist has a deep connection with this work and he lavished some inner voices and interesting (never affected) rhythmic innovations that were a delight. The meteoric Chopin’s music is poetic song, and here song was combined with technical mastery that was convincing in every way. Clearly Mr. Nakamsu’s strength is in lyrical playing. Give him a nice melody and he will make you swoon.

Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s song “Widmung” (dedication) was the only encore, and it received an opulent performance that any great German lieder singer would have been proud of.

Mr. Nakamatsu’s sovereign artistry produced the finest North Bay piano concert since the 2009 recitals of Valentina Lisitsa and Nareh Arghamanyan on the same stage.

Elenor Barcsak, John Boyajy, Gerald Blodgett, Victor Spear and Terry McNeill contributed to this review