Pianist performs Chopin on new Steinway

Two students won a master class instruction from esteemed pianist Jon Nakamatsu. (Andrew Bak / Staff Photographer)

Classical piano melodies filled the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall during pianist Jon Nakamatsu’s performance on Tuesday, March 20.

The event — “An Evening With Jon Nakamatsu” — featured a performance and master class offered by the world-renowned and established pianist, who has showcased his talents in a number of recitals both in the U.S. and Europe.

The program kicked off with several piano pieces, such as “Op. 22” by Chopin.

Nakamatsu played with such precision and assurance that would also make each song more impressive than the last.

He was able to perform on one of the College’s brand new Steinway grand pianos as part of the recent launch of the All-Steinway Campaign in February — which is the College’s effort to replace all current pianos with Steinways.

During the master class portion of the evening, Nakamatsu explained that during a musical contest for young aspiring pianists, two students won the chance to be taught and given piano classes by the performer himself.

The students were given several classes over a period of time as well as a public master class with Nakamatsu after his performance where the audience could observe the instruction being given.

“Master classes are rare and not always public,” Nakamatsu said.

The first student to perform was David Geng, a freshman at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School. The piece he played for the master class was Beethoven’s “Sonata Op.53.” Overall, Geng showed superior skill and experience beyond his years as he played impressively.

At the end of the Geng’s performance, Nakamatsu said, “Every time I give you classes, I feel like I learn so much.”

As part of the class, Nakamatsu also made it a point to offer constructive criticism to Geng. Specifically Nakamatsu noted several issues that affected the sound of Geng’s performance, such as the size of the venue where he was playing.

“There is so much space in a big concert hall like this that if you don’t play it right, it feels like everything blends together. You may hear it right but we (the audience) don’t,” Nakamatsu explained.

Nakamatsu also told Geng to play slower in spite of performance nerves in order to articulate and deepen the sounds of the keys.

Nakamatsu also worked with another winner of the competition — Brynn Elcock a senior at Delaware County Christian School. For her performance, Elcock played Chopin’s “Ballade No. 1.”

Unlike Geng’s performance, Nakamatsu said he liked Elcock’s pacing. However, he recommended that Elcock remember the piano’s natural tendency as a bass-heavy instrument when playing songs with higher tones.

“You have to think about the basic concept of the piano. There is what the piano wants to do, and then there is what you want it to do,” Nakamatsu said.