Pianist Jon Nakamatsu in Santa Cruz Symphony Benefit


Appearing Saturday evening, October 30, in a benefit recital for the Santa Cruz Symphony in Cabrillo College’s new recital hall, Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jon Nakamatsu opened his program with a stunning performance of Clementi’s Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 25. In keeping with the classical style of this composer, he played this work with refinement, grace and clarity — every lyrical phrase being carefully and exquisitely shaped. 

Before playing Schumann’s Papillions, Op. 2, Nakamatsu treated us to some entertaining verbal program notes that helped us imagine a masked ball, with couples dancing to a waltz, women chatting, and entrances of grand figures of authority. Then, using musical examples, he prompted us to listen for the stroke of a clock’s chimes and the theme of a German folk tune called the “Grandfather’s Theme” which traditionally signaled the concluding dance at a formal ball.

Nakamatsu related well to the audience and made us feel at home, as though among family and friends. His performance of the Beethoven Sonata, Op.27 No. 2, in C-sharp Minor, known as the “Moonlight Sonata,” was stunning. The last movement was so electrifying and energetic that the audience gave him a standing ovation with cheers, shouts and applause.  

The last two works on the program were the three Sonetti Di Petrarca by Franz Liszt and the Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante Op 22 by Frederic Chopin. Both of these works were played with richly detailed elegance, and every phrase was perfectly nuanced with elegant expression. 

The audience showed such hearty warmth and appreciation that he gave us two wonderful encores – Liszt’s transcription of Widmung (“Dedication”) by Robert Schumann, and Rondo Capriccioso by Felix Mendelssohn. 


 Laureen Herr is a pianist and teacher who resides in Scotts Valley.

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