Category Archives: Craig Blog

Jon Nakamatsu at Yoshi’s

Jon Nakamatsu performed at Yoshi’s in San Francisco last night as part of KDFC’s classical series. Jon’s an amazing pianist and the relaxed setting of Yoshi’s allowed him the opportunity to introduce each piece and even hold a brief Q&A with the audience. Here’s his setlist:

Schumann/Liszt: Wigmund (Dedication)
Rameau: Gavotte et doubles
Schubert: Impromptu in E-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 2
Liszt: Sonnet 47 of Petrarch
Mendelssohn: Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14
Brahms: Allergo from Piano Sonata in C, Op. 1
Liszt: Dante Sonata
Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. posth. 66 (encore)

Kudos to you, Jon, for offering a wonderful program with several rarely heard selections!

Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor

Last night I finally saw “The Pianist”. What an incredible, if harrowing, experience. It tells the story of Polish-Jewish composer and pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who against all odds, survived the Holocaust. Here’s a beautiful recording of the C Sharp minor Nocturne by Polish pianist Janusz Olejniczak, who plays on the soundtrack. His hands get a good amount of screen time as well, as it is the Olejniczak that you see playing Chopin throughout the movie. I’d never played this Nocturne, but I quickly downloaded the music and will be working it up. It’s a shame that it wasn’t included in the Schirmer edition of the Nocturnes (Joseffy). Chopin dedicated this piece to his elder sister, Ludwika, as an aid in helping her learn his second piano Concerto. One should always feel fortunate when playing a work by Chopin that wasn’t published during his lifetime, as it was his deathbed wish that they all be destroyed!

Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony: A Matter of Life & Death

I’ve been enjoying the the “13 Days When Music Changed Forever” radio program broadcast each Saturday night at 9pm on KQED. Tonight’s topic was the story of Shostakovich and the reaction of the Stalin regime to his opera “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.” After the opera was condemned in an anonymous article in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, Shostakovich began the perilous balancing act of attempting to please the Soviet authorities while maintaining his artistic relevance. This frightening atmosphere forms the backdrop for the creation of his famous 5th Symphony. Until the the radio program is available in streaming audio, here’s a link to the episode of Keeping Score that focuses on Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony. I love the way the opening grabs you! It’s the definition of ominous.

Cough, cough! (Giggle) Cough!

During my recent visit to the San Francisco Symphony, the concert featured string serenades by Mozart, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. At the conclusion of the first (very famous) movement of “Eine kleine Nachtmusic,” the audience broke into spontaneous applause. Now, every classical music fan knows that you’re not supposed to do that! As the Romanza began, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d get applause again when the movement ended. Well, as the section came to a close, I got a reminder of what usually happens: a barrage of coughing! Somehow, 10% of the audience had managed to stifle their coughs until the exact moment that the music stopped. As the rest of the program continued, the same scenario unfolded over and over. When the music paused, 250 patrons immediately began their 15 second coughing jag while the rest of the audience shifted in their seats uncomfortably or quietly tittered. While I smiled at the people around me who were giggling at the people coughing, I came to the realization that the symphony had become a completely new interactive experience. But not in a good way! Listening to this awkward, distracting call and response throughout the evening, I had an “Aha!” moment. Why not applaud between the movements? It had happened during the Mozart and we all came out unscathed! Simply put, if we can’t have the short moment of reflective silence that’s supposed to go there, why not instead share our appreciation for the music and the fine job that the orchestra is doing?

Up until about 100 years ago, it was the norm to clap between movements! Here’s a link to a wonderfully detailed examination of when and why concert goers stopped applauding between movements by Alex Ross. If you want to truly understand 20th century music, you should to read his incredible book The Rest Is Noise.

Ahn Trio perform at Yoshi’s San Francisco

After my recital on Sunday, my wife Shirley and I went to Yoshi’s to hear the Ahn Trio. That’s pianist Lucia above, and her twin sister, cellist Maria to the left. Their sister, violinist Angella, had left for the airport right after the concert. The sisters opened the concert with a beautifully atmospheric composition written for them by Pat Metheny named “Yu Ryung” containing a striking riff in the cello that any guitarist would love to play. Several pieces written by Kenji Bunch were featured, all written specifically for the Trio. Of special interest was the piece “Danceband,”a five-part suite that includes sections with unique piano effects. The “Sarabande” movement had a short section where Lucia leaned in and strummed the piano strings with a guitar pick, producing the unmistakable pluck of a harpsichord. During the movement titled “Backstep,” Lucia placed a towel between the frame and the strings to replicate a surprisingly true banjo sound. It was fun and slightly disorienting to hear bluegrass music performed by a Korean piano trio in a Japanese sushi restaurant/jazz club. The most unusual piano technique came during the Ahn Trio’s version of the Door’s “Riders On the Storm.” When the trio wanted a storm effect, Lucia provided the thunder by bouncing a tennis ball on the bass strings of the Steinway. It’s not every day that you get the chance to hear talented musicians playing music that, for the most part, was written expressly for them. Be sure to catch the Ahn Trio live: these ladies enjoy playing together and their energy and enthusiasm is what makes live music so exciting!
Follow this link to hear the future of the piano trio.

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San Jose Piano Teacher

Piano lessons are taught in my San Jose home, conveniently located near Willow Glen, Almaden, Evergreen, Santa Teresa, Campbell and Morgan Hill.

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