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Symphony
A PIANIST AND ORCHESTRA IN NEED OF A PIANO
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Sonoma County Philharmonic conductor Norman Gamboa mounted a crackerjack program Nov. 15 to end the Philharmonic's 2014 calendar year. It was a balanced menu of dramatic orchestral playing, beguiling choral works and an intriguing piano soloist in Santa Rosa's High School Auditorium. The evening's ...
Symphony
A CELLO CONCERTO FROM A DISTANT WORLD
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 10, 2014
Several surprises characterized the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 10 Weill Hall concert, the first being an almost full house on a Monday night after the same program was heard the two previous days. The important surprise was how well the audience liked the thorny Dutilleux cello concerto, Tout un...
Recital
ROBUST PLAYING IN KENNER'S ANGELICO HALL DEBUT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Europe-based Kevin Kenner chose a husky program for his Marin debut recital Nov. 9 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall, and elected three masterpieces from the Romantic piano literature. Schubert’s C Major “Wanderer” Fantasy has nearly disappeared from recital programs, but it was a deft openi...
Recital
CHAMBER MUSIC MASTERY IN VALLEJO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 09, 2014
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented the first small group performance of its 2014-2015 season Nov. 9 in the casual setting of Vallejo’s First Presbyterian Church. Clarinetist Diane Maltester wowed the audience with stunning performances of pieces by well-known and rarely heard composers. “Dian...
Recital
FRANCK ORGAN WORKS SUBLIMELY PLAYED BY MANWELL IN CAS RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Organist Philip Manwell played a sublime recital of the major organ works of César Franck October 26 at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish. The concert was a delightful treat both for those not acquainted with Franck’s organ music and for the many organists in the audience who have studied the Belgian...
Chamber
A BRUCH SURPRISE IN TRIO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Part of the Trio Navarro’s sterling reputation rests with the rare repertoire they perform. So it was a bit of a surprise Oct. 26 in Schroeder Hall when they programmed popular works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Somehow Max Bruch pieces managed to sneak into the mix. The Bruch in a way stole th...
Symphony
DARK SPIRITS IN SPOOKY ANDERSON AND ROE WEILL PROGRAM
by Sonia Tubridy
Friday, October 24, 2014
The Anderson and Roe piano duo have been a force in the music world for over a decade. Their arrangements and performances present virtuoso abilities and commitment to engaging audiences in the beauty and drama of classical music, juxtaposed with contemporary artists' music of other genres. The conc...
Recital
THREE DISPARATE SONATAS HIGHLIGHT BELL'S SR SYMPHONY BENEFIT IN WELLS
by Nicki Bell
Friday, October 24, 2014
Superstar violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax made the Well Fargo Center their first stop Oct. 24 on their world tour, and it was a scintillating benefit recital for the Santa Rosa Symphony. Mr. Bellʼs virtuosity and musicianship have elicited universal critical praise including swe...
Recital
IMPECCABLE ARTISTIC TASTE IN ANTON NEL SRJC RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Reporting on a recital by the Austin-based pianist Anton Nel is a predictably satisfying task. His playing Oct. 19 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium mirrored a recital on the same stage nearly two years ago and showcased a high level of professionalism and artistry. Beginning with Mozart’s D Major "Dupor...
Symphony
BOUNDLESS BAROQUE ARTISTRY IN LIVE OAK SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, October 19, 2014
On October 19 the Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, directed by baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, appeared in the first of several concerts it is to present at Schroeder Hall in Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. The new 250-seat recital space is the perfect venue for chamber music, whi...
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