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Disc review: Jon Nakamatsu, Schumann Piano Sonata No. 2, Papillons, Carnaval



Piano Sonata No. 2, Papillons, Carnaval

Jon Nakamatsu, piano

[Harmonia Mundi USA]

Three stars

I always remember what a kick it was when Jon Nakamatsu won the Van Cliburn Competition. The fun of it was that he was, technically, an amateur. He taught high school German and played piano on the side. And he was just so good. He still is, as this bright, energetic disc shows.

His technique grabs you in the sonata’s fast movements. To hear him navigate Schumann’s treacherous fingerwork is in itself a sensual joy. It’s all so clear. “Papillons” (“Butterflies”) also has an appealing clarity that lets you appreciate the music’s flutter and sparkle. Nakamatsu is very classical in his approach and spare in his use of the pedal. Occasionally his playing can sound a bit dry and measured. That is one reason the “Carnaval,” while bright and clear, doesn’t quite nail the whirling hedonism the music should project, especially at the end. But there is a lot to thrill you along the way. Listen in “Carnaval” for that echo of “Papillons.” It’s a moment I always love.

– Mary Kunz Goldman

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