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Nakamatsu Returns to Play Mozart With RPO

Rochester, NY – Jon Nakamatsu – the German teacher turned Van Cliburn Gold Medalist, and one of Rochester’s favorite pianists – returns to perform with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under Music Director Christopher Seaman at 8:00 pm on Thursday, November 6 and Saturday, November 8 at the Eastman Theatre.  The pair of concerts is dedicated to the memory of Alfred Davis – one of the RPO’s most generous and philanthropic supporters – who passed away last May.  In musical contrast to Nakamatsu’s recent RPO Gershwin performances, he will delight the audience with Mozart’s well-known Piano Concerto No. 21, whose beautiful slow movement made an indelible cultural imprint in the 1960s as the soundtrack for the 1967 Swedish film, “Elvira Madigan.”  Christopher Seaman hosts the pre-concert chat at 7:00 pm.

The RPO is proud to dedicate this pair of concerts to Alfred Davis, “who truly loved the Orchestra, loved music, and saw it as his mission to enable us to turn our dreams into reality,” remarked Christopher Seaman.  Mr. Davis first came to the attention of the RPO when he offered to underwrite the appearance of Jon Nakamatsu after having seen him win the Van Cliburn.  It was to be the beginning of a remarkable relationship among the RPO, Mr. Davis and Mr. Nakamatsu.  It was Davis’ RPO Steinway Piano Fund that made possible the donation of the Steinway piano which he made in honor of his special friendship with Nakamatsu.

The program opens with Sir Michael Tippett’s Suite in D for the Birthday of Prince Charles, a royal tribute in all its British glory.  In 1948, Tippett was one of three composers commissioned by BBC radio to create a work celebrating the impending birth of Prince Charles of Wales.  According to Christopher Seaman, who knew Sir Michael Tippett personally, the composer was “a phenomenon” whose creative drive was seen in this early work.  It has a very “English” feel, partly through the use of a number of traditional tunes and in its energetic, celebratory atmosphere.

Mozart was nothing if not a prolific composer, and his Piano Concerto No. 21 was written only four weeks after the previous one.  The symphonic-like first movement begins quietly, but with an anticipatory sense of a heroic, regal mood. The famous lyrical second movement is followed by a finale full of charm and fun, reminiscent of Mozart’s comic operas, including The Marriage of Figaro.

Jon Nakamatsu received global attention in 1997 as the Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, subsequently appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Boston Pops at Tanglewood. Since that time, he has become a sought-after concerto soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and recitalist throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, enjoying a continuously expanding career based on a deeply probing and illuminating musicality as well as a quietly charismatic performing style.  He has recorded seven CDs for harmonia mundi usa, including his recent collaboration with the RPO performing Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue.  His upcoming season includes the world premiere of David Amram’s Piano Concerto with Symphony Silicon Valley.

The second half of the concert features Finnish composer Jan Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, premiered in 1902.  Its majestic themes and heroic spirit have made it the most popular of the composer’s seven symphonies. The four-movement work balances the Nordic darkness with the emergence of blazing sun, and closes with a triumphant coda.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$56, available online 24/7 at, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm), and at area Wegmans.  The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  Jon Nakamatsu’s appearance is made possible by The Alfred Davis and Brunhilde Knapp Artists Performance Fund.  Additional support comes from The Mozart Performance Fund: Sarah D. Atkinson, M.D. and Steven Hess.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers $9 Philharmonics Series tickets to local students. 

Celebrating its 86th season in 2008-09, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music, presenting nearly 200 performances each season to a combined audience of an estimated quarter of a million people, including more than 70,000 who experience the RPO’s broad range of educational and community programs.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester.