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Symphony
BACH'S MIGHTY MASS ENDS MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Paula Mulligan
Saturday, July 23, 2016
For the final concert of the Mendocino Music Festival July 23 Alan Pollack conducted the Festival Orchestra and Chorus in just one work, Bach’s B Minor Mass.  The orchestra, much reduced in size to suit the needs of the sparser scoring and the character of the composition’s period, ably supported th...
Chamber
SCHUBERT'S THEMES OF YOUTH AND DEATH AT VOM MUSIC FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The beautiful new Hanna Boys Center auditorium in Sonoma Valley was the setting for the July 23 concert of the Valley of the Moon (VOM) Music Festival, now in it’s second year. Directors Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian have created a Festival of Classical and Romantic repertoire played on period inst...
Other
LATE BEETHOVEN EXPLORED AT MMF CONCERT IN PRESTON HALL
by Paula Mulligan
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival performance in Preston Hall July 22 was titled “Late Beethoven,” and was the final presentation in the tribute to the composer that was part of this year’s Festival.  Pianist Susan Waterfall has been giving a series of lecture dealing with Beethoven’s life and music, and...
Symphony
HEROISM AND SUBTLETY IN ALL-BEETHOVEN MMF CONCERT
by Paula Mulligan
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Much of the emphasis of this year’s Mendocino Music Festival has been about Beethoven, and a series of small venue performances with Beethoven lectures by Festival co-director Susan Waterfall preceded the July 20 orchestra performance in the big tent on Mendocino’s main street. From the opening bar...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENT SOUND AT VOM FESTIVAL'S OPENING CONCERT AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Every summer music festival has a unique character, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma has the singular character of stressing period instruments that sound well for mostly period repertoire. In the Festival’s opening concert July 17 this was best in evidence for two Beethoven wor...
Recital
BALANCED VIRTUOSITY IN ATZINGER MMF RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Pianist Christopher Atzinger’s Mendocino Music Festival recital July 16 in the small Preston Hall looked formidable on paper larded with what might be said to be “non festival, non summer” music. There were no light Gershwin or Schubert dance works, and for some the six pieces from Brahms’ Op. 118 ...
Opera
ONE-NIGHT STAND AT MMF'S ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 15, 2016
Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry. Conducted by Festival Arti...
Recital
OF ANGELS, DEMONS AND ENCORES
by Kayleen Asbo
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Each successive event at this summer’s Mendocino Music Festival has brought an unfolding cornucopia of delights. Elements of the exceptional three previous classical programs coalesced July 14 into a magnificent and singular tour de force when pianist Robert Henry traversed the entire topography of...
Other
ANGUISH AND TRIUMPH IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL'S BIG TENT
by Kayleen Asbo
Sunday, July 10, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival is highlighting Beethoven this summer, and July 10’s program in the tent could have appropriately borrowed the subtitle from Jan Swafford’s 2014 biography of the composer, Anguish and Triumph. The Festival’s second classical concert paired two Beethoven works wit...
Chamber
BACHANALIAN BEGINNING AT MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Saturday, July 09, 2016
In ancient Greece there were two gods of music, representing two different musical principles. Apollo, God of the Sun, was associated with intellectual clarity, and his was a kind of music that focused on order, balance, refinement and mathematical precision. Dionysus (known to the Romans of a lat...
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