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Pianist Jon Nakamatsu to perform at Bates

1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medal winner Jon Nakamatsu performs at Bates College on Friday, March 27 (Photo by Christian Steiner)

1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medal winner Jon Nakamatsu performs at Bates College on Friday, March 27 (Photo by Christian Steiner)

Classical pianist Jon Nakamatsu will perform at Bates College on Friday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. Praised for his clean technique and deep musical intuition, Nakamatsu took the world of classical piano by storm when, over many more-favored competitors, he walked away with the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1997, becoming the first American to win the prestigious title in 16 years.

His triumph was a classic underdog story: a high school teacher, Nakamatsu had studied with one piano teacher since age 6 and had never gone to a conservatory or college to study music.

Named 1998’s Debut Artist of the Year by National Public Radio, he has since recorded 12 critically acclaimed CDs with Harmonia Mundi USA. His 2007 collaboration with the Rochester Philharmonic on Gershwin’s Concerto in F and “Rhapsody in Blue” reached No. 3 on Billboard’s classical chart, staying on the chart for almost six months.

Nakamatsu’s impressive repertoire ranges from Bach to present-day composers. Whether playing solo or with an entire orchestra, he remains in control of the entire musical landscape, delivering energetic and sophisticated performances with nimble fingerwork and a down-to-earth charm. Bernard Holland of The New York Times says, “This young American pianist has stunning technical control and can do anything at the piano he wants,” while music reviewer Richard Scheinin describes Nakamatsu’s playing as “fluid, like Chopin, but also with crisp springboarding chords.”

Today, Nakamatsu himself serves as a judge in several piano competitions and often performs and records with clarinetist Jon Manasse. The two are co-directors of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. His Bates appearance is supported by a generous bequest to the college by Atsuko Hirai, Kazushige Hirasawa Professor Emerita of History, who died last year. A gifted soprano, Hirai’s love of history was matched by her devotion to music.

The performance will take place in the College’s Olin Arts Center Concert Hall at 75 Russell Street in Lewiston. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at batestickets.com. A limited number of free tickets for Bates faculty, staff, students and seniors ages 65-plus are available at bit.ly/oacbates.

For more information, call 786-6135 or email olinarts@bates.edu.

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