Thomasville Times Enterprise

February 1, 2014

A REVIEW: Nakamatsu mesmerizes TEF audience

Rick Ivey

THOMASVILLE — Thursday night’s concert at the Thomasville Center for the Arts was nothing short of splendid, as pianist Jon Nakamatsu mesmerized a grateful audience of music aficionados and novices alike.

The American musician, the 1997 gold medalist at the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, played a program of 18th and 19th century works that demonstrated a classical artistry complemented by an amazing dexterity.

Hailed as “a true aristocrat of the keyboard,” Nakamatsu opened the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation concert with two Franz Schubert impromptus from Opus 90 — No. 3 in G-flat major and No. 2 in E-flat major — then continued with Frederick Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in B minor (Opus 58).  The combination of selections in his first act works afforded him the opportunity to weave a beautiful, melodic tapestry while also showcasing fingerwork that could only be described as dizzying.

Following a brief intermission, Nakamatsu took the audience on a musical ride that was at once playful, moving, fiery, expressive and majestic, working the Steinway keyboard to what must have been its fullest potential as he galloped through Robert Schumann’s Carnaval (Opus 9). The complex and inventive piece, in which Schumann worked to fuse literary, theatrical and social allusions into his music, pays homage to his contemporaries like Chopin and Niccolo Paganini, recognizes romantic relationships from his lifetime, threads in traditional commedia characterizations of Columbina and Pantalone and, finally, casts dispersions on composers he felt bowed to popularity and success over artistry.

On demand from an on-their-feet audience, Nakamatsu returned to the stage, playing the showy and familiar Fantaisie-Impromptu by Chopin, a rousing close to an evening of Romantic classical works that were simultaneously a treat for both ears and eyes. Onstage and off, the pianist proved himself impressive as a musician and performer, yet humble and gracious as an individual, a rare combination for an artist at his level. 

During intermission and at a post-concert meet-and-greet with the performer, music lovers described the performance of classical works from the Romantic period as “special” and “beautifully played,” while others with extensive musical training and background noted his “exquisite tone,” “expressive musicality” and “formidable technique.”

Thursday’s audience members came from at least as far away as Macon, with four women from the central Georgia city staying after to take photos with and praise Nakamatsu on his performance. Patrons from Tallahassee, Fla., Valdosta and Moultrie routinely attend TEF concerts, including many season ticket holders from across the region.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t pretend to be a pianist, or even a musician for that matter. I can hold my own in a chorus or church choir (thanks to six years of Thomasville Music & Drama Troupe membership with Fred Allen at the helm), but I don’t read a note of music, and I don’t know a useful thing about music theory.

The beauty of the TEF concert series is that I don’t have to in order to be thoroughly entertained and culturally enlightened, thanks to the rich and diverse array of entertainers and artists the all-volunteer organization — now in its 76th season — has brought and continues to bring to our community year after year after year. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many of those performances since the early 1970s when my parents first took my sisters and me to TEF concerts when we were in elementary school.

Three concerts remain in the 2013-14 season, with offerings for various musical tastes. Coming up Feb. 15, “Guitar Passions,” with master guitarists Sharon Isbin, Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo, promises an electrifying and diverse performance featuring Latin, Brazilian and jazz musical stylings. The focus turns more classical on March 20, as the superb New York Chamber Soloists bring an evening of music on strings, wind instruments, harpsichord and piano, then the season concludes April 3 with acclaimed jazz vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur, who just completed concert stops in New York and Italy.

For more information or to inquire about ticket availability for the remaining season, contact the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation office at (229) 226-7404 or