Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Lawrence Cosentino

No Web bio or program booklet will let you know what Jon Nakamatsu, the visitor soloist for this week’s Lansing Symphony Orchestra live performance, needed to undergo to pursue a life in music making.

Friday night, Nakamatsu and the LSO will be a part of forces to sort out one of many greatest and most absorbing concertos within the repertoire: the magisterial Brahms Second. This system additionally consists of the tuneful, folk-inflected First Symphony of Virginia-based composer (and MSU alumnus) Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork.

Nakamatsu is among the most completed soloists the LSO has ever labored with — the gold medalist within the ultra-prestigious 1997 Van Cliburn Worldwide Piano Competitors, the primary American to win the prize since 1981.

But it surely hasn’t precisely been a rose backyard for him.

In 1993, a decide at a nationwide piano competitors informed him, to his face, that he would by no means have a musical profession and he ought to discover “one thing simpler to do” together with his life. A jury member at one other competitors informed him that “Japanese folks can’t play Chopin” and that he ought to discover one thing that speaks “extra to his tradition.”

The primary time he entered the Cliburn competitors, he didn’t make it to the preliminary spherical. 

However he stored at it, pulled by “the sensation that there’s nothing else you’d relatively be doing — that not doing it will be like slicing off your arm.”

“What an amazing privilege it’s to only be taking part in a piano for a dwelling,” he stated. “How ridiculous is that?”

Nakamatsu doesn’t come from a musical household, he doesn’t have a level in music, and he by no means studied at what he calls a “fancy conservatory.”

He grew up in Sunnyvale, California, and labored as a German instructor at Mountain View Excessive College. He turned fascinated with an upright piano at his preschool and begged his dad and mom to get him one. They compromised and acquired him a toy organ, which he promptly wore to a nub.

He had similar piano instructor, Marina Derryberry, for practically 20 years.

“She was my first piano instructor and was on the Cliburn after I went 20 years later,” he stated. “Unbelievable.”

Irrespective of how intensively he studied and practiced, he at all times made certain he had an exit plan. If the piano profession didn’t work out, he was prepared to return to high school for a graduate diploma by the point he hit his early 30s. 

“That’s the opposite a part of life,” he stated. “You may’t be unrealistic and chase one thing that will by no means occur.”

The Van Cliburn medal opened the door to gigs with main orchestras world wide. However with out sustaining a sane life stability, that stage of success can create a complete different set of issues. 

“I didn’t need music to show bitter,” he stated. “This enterprise is just not at all times a pleasant one. I knew music would at all times be the largest a part of who I’m, but it surely needed to be in a method that allow me be glad as an individual, and that’s nonetheless the driving think about my life.”

Nakamatsu doesn’t dwell in a bubble. He eagerly tracks the reactions of non-musicians, together with his spouse and younger son, to his performances.

“She may say, ‘Every thing was slightly bit too quiet,’” he stated. “It’s very instructive to me. You will get so concerned within the course of of creating music you can lose observe of what individuals are truly perceiving.”

He perks up at feedback from his 7-year-old son, comparable to “that sounds slightly like ‘Star Wars.’”

“It’s nice speaking with him,” he stated. “What a toddler perceives — individuals are extra perceptive than you might assume.”

Irrespective of how difficult the music will get, he doesn’t get misplaced in technical issues and concentrates on taking listeners alongside for the trip.

“You need folks to have this cathartic expertise together with you,” he stated. “After they come away with this puzzled expression on their faces, you recognize one thing’s not proper.”

Friday’s Brahms concerto is a gripping, 50-minute voyage alongside a posh and deep river.

“It’s a tricky piece, but it surely doesn’t appear as powerful to the viewers, as a result of it’s by no means showy for the sake of showiness,” Nakamatsu stated.

Intimacy, depth and sincerity take the place of the white-water thrills that upstage many concertos, together with Brahms’ First.

“In some ways, it’s chamber music — solely it’s chamber music occasions 1,000,” he stated.

Various solo voices, from a noble horn to a young viola, share the highlight together with the pianist. (Nakamatsu in contrast it to a “spirited read-through of a play.”) Weaving out and in of a wealthy tapestry like Brahms’ Second requires much more focus and focus from the soloist than a flashier concerto the place the pianist fees forward, full bore, from begin to end.

“I’m simply in awe of it,” Nakamatsu stated. “The orchestra loves taking part in it, too, as a result of we’re all making an attempt to do the identical factor.”

Nakamatsu has labored with LSO maestro Timothy Muffitt a number of occasions, together with with the Baton Rouge Symphony and at different venues.

“We at all times have numerous enjoyable,” Nakamatsu stated. “He’s fantastic. I can’t wait to get collectively and do that.”

He’s additionally wanting ahead to getting out of the monsoon rains at present drenching San Jose, California, and getting a take a look at some snow. The one downside, for each father and son, is looming “daddy away” time.  

“But it surely at all times goes by so shortly, and he is aware of I at all times come again,” Nakamatsu stated. “However how fortunate am I? I get to come back to you and play Brahms’ Second, and we’ll determine all of it out collectively, and it’s an amazing life.”

By Admin

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