Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival

May 24, 2008

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu wowed the audience last weekend with his dazzling performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. He and conductor Jung-ho Pak, and an inspired Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra filled the 1440-seat hall at the Barnstable Center for the Performing Arts with beautiful, electrifying music. A number of those attending on Saturday evening bought tickets for Sunday’s performance on their way out, so eager were they to hear it all again. Sunday’s performance was a sell-out, and people were turned away from this classical music concert featuring the works of Verdi, Beethoven and Brahams. Nakamatsu and Pak clearly enjoy making music together, and audiences clearly enjoyed what they heard.

Cape Cod is lucky to have Pak as conductor and artistic director of the Cape Cod Symphony, and we can look forward to hearing a lot more from Nakamatsu this summer, when he serves, along with clarinetist Jon Manasse, as artistic director of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival (July 29 to August 17). (Both also served as artistic directors for the festival last year.)

We will have a chance to hear both musicians play together on May 25, at the Chamber Music Society’s Spring Concert in Wellfleet. Jon and Jon will play Brahms Sonata for Clarinet in F Minor, Opus 120 No. 1, which can be found on their newly released recording from Harmonia Mundi.

I talked to Jon Nakamatsu recently at the Music Festival office in Chatham. He won the prestigious Van Cliburn competition in 1997, which catapulted him to musical success, but his path to a musical career has not been easy. Unlike most professional musicians, he did not follow the conservatory route, but, rather, studied German and education in college and became a high school German teacher. He continued practicing and entered numerous competitions, but was told again and again that he didn’t have what it takes.

He persevered, despite a job which kept him from practicing as much as he would have liked. His job prevented him from entering more than one competition a year, and he was getting older and competitions were for young musicians. He was 28 when he won the Van Cliburn competition (others that year were 19 to 30), and almost ready to give up his dream of a profession in classical music. Since his win, he has performed all over the world, both as a soloist and as a chamber player, and is highly praised for his musicality. He is also very personable, passionate about music, and interested in his fellow musicians and the audience.

Nakamatsu said that he had made several changes to the Chamber Music Festival, including adding more woodwind chamber music and including tango and jazz violin ensembles. You can see the whole schedule at the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival Web site.

Here’s the complete program for May 25:

Sunday, May 25: “Piano & Friends,” First Congregational Church, Wellfleet, 8 PM, Jon Manasse, clarinet; Jon Nakamatsu, piano.

Program:

Saint-Saëns: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 167

Debussy: Premiere Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano

Chopin: Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante, Op. 22

Kovacs: Homage to J. S. Bach

Brahms: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1

The Nauset World Music Ensemble will perform at 7 PM.

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