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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 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...
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...
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.