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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Jon Nakamatsu / Sunday, November 30, 2008
Jon Nakamatsu, Pianist

Jon Nakamatsu

NAKAMATSU OFFERS PROVOCATIVE MUSICAL INTOXICATION

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Many components go into a fine piano recital — the artist’s technique, rhythmic control, range of tonal colors, choice of repertoire, and even stamina. All can combine to make a first-rate performance. But in recent local recitals, a key part for listeners — the aspect of being thrilled — has gone missing. Not so for Bay Area hero Jon Nakamatsu, who provided thrills across the musical spectrum on Nov. 30 in a sensational Newman Auditorium recital for the Concerts Grand series in Santa Rosa.

Before a nearly full house, liberally sprinkled with musicians, Nakamatsu performed mostly dance-related pieces with masterly control of line and color. His recital was an object lesson in projection of difficult music, nearly all which required resolute concentration by listeners and rewarded such close attention with sonic delights.

Beginning with Haydn’s Sonata No. 33 in C Minor, Nakamatsu quickly demonstrated why his playing is nonpareil. Each of the three movements had lift and clarity, his careful use of dynamics and articulation highlighting the drama and pathos. Haydn’s sonatas seem to be almost displacing those of Mozart and Scarlatti, a welcome development. All was in impeccable order, whetting the appetite for a big work from the Romantic era.

Carnaval is one of Schumann’s masterpieces, not often played in Santa Rosa, and several seasoned members of the audience could only recall a long-ago Claudio Arrau performance for the Community Concerts series. Nakamatsu’s reading is likewise sure to linger in the memory. His balanced phrasing and economy of motion in both hands was a marvel, the fleet scales and coloristic effects becoming an object lesson for each of the piece’s 22 sections. He can play very fast with nary a slip, and only the tempo in the Paganini part causing some missed notes in the wide right-hand skips. Rachmaninoff’s famous recording is of equal speed, and praise for Nakamatsu can thus go no higher. The final left-hand crossover chord brought a roar from the crowd, to my mind the loudest and most prolonged “noise” heard in Newman, surpassing the tumult offered to Garrick Ohlsson after his 2007 Liszt B Minor Sonata. In his remarks to the audience at the beginning of the second half. Nakamatsu acknowledged the commotion by saying that he thought he couldn’t perform much better, and reflected about driving off in his car, but of course remembered that another 45 minutes of playing was in front of him!

And it was an eminent second half, led off by five piquant Danses Fantastiques, Op. 2, of Iranian-American composer Loris Tjeknavorian. Each of the five told a different story, some vaguely reminiscent of Bartok, some scattered tableaux spiced with contrary motion octaves, powerful sforzandos and false cadences. Originally part of a 1962 ballet, these dances deserve repertoire status. Several people later asked the pianist about getting a copy of the score.

Far from dissonance, but nonetheless harmonically divergent, were two short Liszt Impromptus, the first dedicated to an admirer of the composer, Princess Gortschakoff. As in many late Liszt works, the wistfulness dominated, bathed in a precursor of Impressionism. The more popular Valse Impromptu found Nakamatsu in a playful mood, adding small alterations to the rhythms and catching with gorgeous dexterity the work’s insouciance.

Completing the program was the so called “Dante’ Sonata, a single-movement piece that is perhaps closer to Berlioz than anything Liszt ever wrote. Its pictorial drama is difficult for many to comprehend, as the free rhapsodic style depicts a turbulent Paradise and juxtaposes a stark variety of theatrical scenes. Nakamatsu made a cohesive case with scintillating octaves, forte block chords and shimmering tremolos, all part of a convincing whole. It was one of the best readings of the work I have ever heard, and the audience exacted two encores, each a testimony to Nakamatsu’s elegant pianism.

Mendelssohn’s celebrated Introduction and Rondo Capriccio, Op. 14, was the proper tonic after the Liszt pyrotechnics. All was in place — repose, sparkling scales, controlled passage work and a suitably rousing ending. The Fourth Chopin Impromptu followed, the “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” motif from Tin Pan Alley fame sung with grace and delicate finger staccato.

The recital was a throwback to what Hofmann, Busoni, Rachmaninoff and Horowitz did in the last century, combining sovereign pianistic execution with extraordinary emotional impact. Jon Nakamatsu achieved a similar result with the great Steinway last Sunday, drawing listeners into a rare 90 minutes of provocative musical intoxication.

Note: The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.