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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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