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Symphony
HEALDSBURG PHILHARMONIA PLAYS THE RAVEN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Les Pfutzenreuter is a conductor that gets around, moving from his Ukiah base at Mendocino College and the Ukiah Symphony to festival and concert appearances with many orchestras. February 22 found him with the Healdsburg Philharmonia in that City’s Raven Theater with works of Copland and Tcha...
Symphony
CHAMPAGNE ORGY OF SWISS ORCHESTRA'S SOUND IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Orchestras on tour usually perform hefty display works to showoff their virtuosity and power. And so it was with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) Feb. 14 in Weill Hall. Big works, weighty display. And in a surprise the compositions by Stravinsky and Ravel in the second half did the rare th...
Symphony
LENGTH? HEAVENLY LENGTH AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
A Bruckner Symphony performance can be a demanding task for both the orchestra and audience, as each of the nine are long and musically wandering. But not that wander are lost, as the Sonoma County Philharmonic proved in their Feb. 15 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center. L...
Symphony
BOLD OPERATIC AND SYMPHONIC CONTRASTS IN SF SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Pianist Peter Serkin and San Francisco Symphony Laureate conductor Herbert Blomstedt pulled musical extremes together on Feb. 12 in Weill Hall Symphony concert where artistic experience was a defining factor. From the warmth and humor of Mozart’s F Major Piano Concerto, K. 459, to the turmoil, drama...
Symphony
A BANDONEONIST WALKS INTO A BAR ...
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 08, 2015
Seeing a bandoneón player in front of a symphony orchestra reminds one of the old joke about a kangaroo walking into a high-priced bar. The bartender says, "We don't get many kangaroos in here," to which the kangaroo replies, "With these prices, I can see why." Likewise, if a bandoneónist were to wa...
Chamber
INTENSE STRING PLAYING IN HEALDSBURG'S ALL-POLISH COMPOSER PROGRAM
by Nicki Bell
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
A surprise program change greeted a full house in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Room Feb. 4 when the Szymanowski Quartet from Warsaw played an all-Polish composer concert. Judging by audience comments at intermission the displacement of an arrangement of a Mussorgsky work by Penderecki’s Third Quartet w...
Chamber
KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 01, 2015
Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Supe...
Symphony
ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015
A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay. Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon...
Chamber
SNAZZY CLARINET-PIANO WORKS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Often international-level instrumental duos are pickup couplings, one virtuoso’s schedule meeting another’s with the resulting desultory concerts. An exception would be the violinist Anne Sophie Mutter with her long-time partner Lambert Orkis, and the Nakamatsu-Manesse Duo. The latter played a pro...
Recital
MESMERIZING BACH AND CASALS IN MA'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.” But the concert was real...
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