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Venue Variety a Constant For Pianist Jon Nakamatsu



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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
(Nakamatsu playing Beethoven cadenza)

That's Jon Nakamatsu showing me the cadenza from the Fourth Beethoven Piano Concerto, which he'll perform this weekend. We're in a practice room in Reno, where Nakamatsu was between concerts.

A Beethoven concerto presents multiple challenges to the pianist. One of them is being heard.

Nakamatsu: "You're sitting in front of 40 musicians with very powerful instruments, it's very daunting sometimes to break through that."

The main hall at Modesto's Gallo Center seats more than 1,200 people - enough space to contain an airliner. And a symphony orchestra can overpower a Steinway. Nakamatsu relies on the conductor - that's David Lockington in Modesto - to keep the sound in balance.

But when Nakamatsu goes to Davis, he'll play the Dvorak Piano Quintet (music rising), with the Alexander String Quartet. That's just four string instruments, in a cozy hall that seats 200. It's very different than fronting an orchestra.

Nakamatsu: "The opposite is chamber music, where each person on the stage is acting as an equal. And there is no director, except our own voices, and our collective voice."

"The wonderful thing is that you can concentrate on a lot more detail, and very very subtle shadings and dynamic and nuance, that sometimes get lost in a bigger space."

Yet at the same time, there's nothing like the transformative power and immensity of symphonic sound - and of course Beethoven was a master in this regard. Beethoven may have lived what many people would see as a lonely, unhappy life - but you'd never know it, listening to his music.

Nakamatsu: "You know, he can also write very positive, life-affirming music, in the face of a life that was so tragic."

(Beethoven rises fades)

With Dvorak, Nakamatsu says it helps to recall that in an era when German music ruled the roost, Dvorak came from Prague, and proudly wove rustic Czech melodies throughout his music.

 (music)

Nakamatsu: "The Piano Quintet especially is full of rhythms and inflections that are from the folk music of his time."

Beethoven in the big hall, or Dvorak in a small one-- you can catch Nakamatsu in both modes this month. Jeff Hudson, Capital Public Radio News.

(Music: fade up Beethoven cadenza)

Modesto Symphony website

Mondavi Center website (for Nakmatsu/Alexander String Quartet event)

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu's website

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