NPR: Performance Today -- Jon Nakamatsu

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Jon Nakamatsu
Pianist Jon Nakamatsu American pianist Jon Nakamatsu's breakthrough came in 1997 when he won the gold medal at the 10th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. At that time, he was a high school German teacher, but after his big win, he promptly left the classroom for the concert hall.

Bio and related links

Anatomy of an encore
Jon Nakamatsu joins Fred Child to provide color commentary for a set of four encores he gave after his Liszt performance at Festival Miami in September 2001. The encores are Scherzo-Valse by Emmanuel Chabrier, the Prelude in C minor, Op. 23, No. 10, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the "Heroic" Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53, by Frederic Chopin, and finally, Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat Op. 9, No 2. (Originally aired October 2001)


Piano Concerto No. 3
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907286
Release date: September 2001

Piano Concertos
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907243
Release date: April 2001

Piano Works
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907244
October 1998

Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
Jon Nakamatsu, Gold Medalist
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907218
Release date: October 1997

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Related Links

  • Jon Nakamatsu's Web site

  • Van Cliburn Foundation

  • harmonia mundi

  • Parker Artists


    A native of California, Jon Nakamatsu claimed a distinguished place on the international musical scene in June, 1997 when named the Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the only American to have achieved this distinction since 1981. A former high school German teacher, he became a popular hero overnight in the highly traditional medium of classical music.

    Highlights of Jon Nakamatsu's current season include important debuts with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin's Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra, returns to the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Roanoke, Springfield (MA), Syracuse and Utah Symphony Orchestras as well as first appearances with the orchestras of Bozeman, Eugene, Maui, Virginia. Recital appearances include Amherst, Dallas, Honolulu, Lewiston (ME), Norfolk and Salem (OR), while the fall includes another tour with the Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, with performances in Fort Worth, Lewisburg, Los Alamos, Pittsburgh and Vienna (VA). Of special note is a performance with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra as part of the opening festivities of the new Margaret & Al Hill Performance Hall in Richardson, Texas. He also appears in recital at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the "Honors Series," celebrating past recepients of The Kennedy Center Honors; Mr. Nakamatsu plays in honor of Van Cliburn. Summer 2003 includes another collaboration with Christopher Seaman and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, this time to open the orchestral series of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

    During the summer of 1997, Jon Nakamatsu was invited to replace Vladimir Ashkenazy in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as soloist with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and performed at Tanglewood with the Boston Pops, the Klavier Festival Ruhr in Germany and the Montpellier Festival in France. Since then, he has also appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and The New World Symphony, as well as the orchestras of Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Dayton, Detroit, Fort Worth, Honolulu, Milwaukee, New Mexico, Rochester, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Syracuse, Toledo and Utah. Abroad, he has been heard as soloist with Italy's famed Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Santo Domingo's Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional. Mr. Nakamatsu has collaborated with many of today's leading conductors, among them Sergiu Comissiona, James Conlon, Leslie B. Dunner, Philippe Entremont, Neal Gittleman, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Marek Janowski, Raymond Leppard, Jahja Ling, Keith Lockhart, David Lockington, Larry Rachleff, Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, Peter Rubardt, Alfred Savia, Carl St. Clair, Christopher Seaman, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Markand Thakar, Hans Vonk and Samuel Wong. His 1998-99 season was highlighted by a White House performance of Rhapsody in Blue, hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton.

    Jon Nakamatsu's extensive recital tours throughout the United States and Europe have featured debuts in New York City (Carnegie Hall), Washington, DC (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Paris, London and Milan. The recipient of the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for his semifinal round chamber music performances at the Cliburn competition, he has subsequently collaborated with various chamber ensembles, among them the Brentano, Manhattan, Miami, St. Lawrence, Tokyo and Ying String Quartets. In the fall of 2000, he toured coast-to-coast with the Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet.

    In July of 1999, Jon Nakamatsu made his debut at France's Evian Music Festival and, one year later, he returned to the Tanglewood Music Festival, the famed summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared at Festival Casals de Puerto Rico, performing with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Carl St. Clair, and at the Tacoma International Music Festival and Lincoln's Meadowlark Music Festival.

    Named Debut Artist of the Year (1998) by NPR's Performance Today, Jon Nakamatsu has been profiled by CBS Sunday Morning and Reader's Digest magazine, and is featured in Playing with Fire, a documentary about the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, aired nationwide on PBS. Earlier, in 1995, he was named the First Prize winner of Miami's Fifth United States Chopin Piano Competition. Mr. Nakamatsu records exclusively for harmonia mundi usa, which has released four CDs, the most recent of which contains performances of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with Christopher Seaman and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Jon Nakamatsu has studied privately with Marina Derryberry since the age of six, has worked with Karl Ulrich Schnabel and studied composition and orchestration with Dr. Leonard Stein of the Schoenberg Institute at the University of Southern California. In addition, he has pursued extensive studies in chamber music and musicology. Mr. Nakamatsu is a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in German Studies and a master's degree in Education.

    Parker Artists, 2002-2003