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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.