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SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
Choral and Vocal
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, January 13, 2013
Jon Nakamatsu, piano

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu

JONNY COMES DANCING HOME IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL

by John Boyajy
Sunday, January 13, 2013

If you love Schumann's piano music, you would have been delighted with Jon Nakamatsu’s Jan. 13 recital in Marin's Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, produced by the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society. For, although Schubert and Beethoven also were on the program, this recital was all about Schumann.

Schumann’s life was turbulent and, like his contemporary Chopin, the drama and pathos he experienced in his personal life found its way into his compositions. Carnaval, Op. 9, is a monument in the Romantic piano literature and depicts in a series of 22 pieces sundry revelers at a festive ball. Fictional characters, many influenced by the Italian Commedia dell’Arte such as Harlequin, Colombine and Pierrot, rub shoulders with Chopin, Paganini, and Schumann’s depiction of his own two divergent personas: Florestan, the extrovert; and Eusebius, the dreamy introvert.

A fantastic and extensive journey, Carnaval runs the better part of a half-hour, and holding the work together is a challenge. Mr. Nakamatsu's tempos, colors, passion, poetry and overall sense of timing made this feel like the shortest Carnaval ever. Every phrase had life. The Prestos were very fast but never rushed or muddy. The pedaling was always perfect, with judicious use of the soft pedal to create a wide spectrum of colors. The double-fortes were sonorous and big – at times even a touch edgy – without ever being unpleasantly percussive. Here, as in the recital's Papillons, Op. 2, the dance movements were gems, blessed with perfect tempos and, where appropriate, some Viennese lilt. Mr. Nakamatsu uses his abundant musical imagination to bring out inner voices, especially in the repeats, which render his performances consistently interesting.

Carnaval’s technical challenges are notorious. Yet, even when the listener was aware of the skill required to execute legato and staccato in one hand (as in Reconnaissance), negotiate lightning-quick leaps (Paganini), control repeated chords at soft volume, and execute fast, clean octaves, it was always apparent that this was a formidible technique being used in service to the music.

Mr. Nakamatsu offered concise and informative verbal commentary about both Schumann pieces. He set the audience up with great success, as many found themselves giggling at the appropriate moments.

Although shorter than Carnaval, Papillons (from 1829, 12 dance movements) is equally difficult to hold together, with some of the sections being barely more than musical snippets. Yet here, as throughout the recital, Mr. Nakamatsu kept the music moving forward and effectively unified Schumann’s vignettes.

Two of Schubert’s Opus 90 Impromptus opened the program: the third in G-Flat Major and the second in E-Flat, both deservedly well-known. The well-paced second Impromptu demonstrated perfect finger technique, and the brilliant coda was passionate and dramatic.

The G-Flat is known for its beautiful melody (Schubert’s stock in trade) and challenges the pianist to play melody and accompaniment in the same hand, a gauntlet thrown down by many Romantic composers. Mr. Nakamatsu chose not to tone down the accompanying sextuplets in the right hand as much as other pianists might, thus creating an interesting (some might say controversial) conversation between the voices. The sound in the melody line was always beautiful, albeit neither velvety nor lush.

Beethoven’s most famous sonata, the C-Sharp Minor of Op. 27 (Moonlight) ended the first half. In the slow opening movement, Mr. Nakamatsu chose a faster-than-usual tempo. As in the Schubert G-Flat Impromptu, the melody and accompaniment did not differ as much in volume as one often hears. In addition, the pianist treated the accompanying triplets to a particular kind of rubato that occasionally left this reviewer unsettled. The second movement was truly gracious and the last, played at whirlwind speed, abounded in intensity, dynamic contrast, verve and drama.

In his only encore, Chopin’s popular Fantaisie-Impromptu in C Sharp, Op. 66, Mr. Nakamatsu imbued his performance with large doses both of tempo variation and ryhthmic variance. Indeed, the amount of rhythmic freedom in his rendition brought back memories of the great Romantic pianists of the early 20th century. And the whispering pianississimo at the end of the middle section was breathtaking. Here is a pianist who can emote without gushing.

The artist, who resides in San Jose, had an unqualified success before a full house and brought Schumann's exalted dances home with consummate mastery.