“He has stunning technical control and can do anything at the piano he wants.”

--The New York Times


Christian Steiner


The distinguished American pianist Jon Nakamatsu, known internationally for the panache and elegance of his solo, concerto, and chamber performances, has become a favorite with audiences throughout the world. As a prolific recording artist, Mr. Nakamatsu has set to disc numerous seminal performances on the Harmonia Mundi label. In his review of Mr. Nakamatsu’s recent performance of Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2, Daniel J.Kushnerwrites in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “Nakamatsu evinced brilliant musicianship. His tone and articulation sparkled and shimmered, while his use of dynamics and energy brought out the lifeblood of each and every phrase.” (May 1, 2015).

During the 2015/16 season, Mr. Nakamatsu joins the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for performances of Gershwin’s Rhaposdy in Blue in October 2015 and returns to the Cape Cod Symphony in September 2015 for the world premiere performances of Grammy-winning composer Gordon Goodwin’s double concerto The Single Step, written for Mr. Nakamatsu and his longtime artistic partner, clarinetist Jon Manasse. Also this season, Mr. Nakamatsu performs Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody in the Reno Philharmonic’s season opening concerts and joins Florida’s Atlantic Classical Orchestra for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in March 2016. Further orchestral appearances include the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Meridian Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Stockton Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Las Cruces Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony, and the San Jose and Mission Chamber Orchestras. Both as a solo recitalist and as part of the Manasse-Nakamatsu duo, Mr. Nakamatsu will perform in San Francisco, Forth Worth, Hawaii, and other American cities.

In January 2015, Mr. Nakamatsu performed both of George Gershwin’s great works for piano and orchestra, Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F, with Symphony Silicon Valley and conductor Ward Stare. Richard Scheinin’s review in the San Jose Mercury News was enthusiastic:

When the pianist Jon Nakamatsu performs with an orchestra, he grasps the total musical landscape. As he attacks and shapes his passages at the keyboard, Nakamatsu is on high alert, listening and responding to the many musicians around him. He instigates, and the entire performance lifts up, gaining detail, unity, vividness. That's what the best musicians do: They improve their environments. (…) The pianist's first entrance was sultry and lush, and then he leaped into action: fluid like Chopin, but also with crisp springboarding chords. Ragging it, jazzing it, delivering the Charleston rhythms, delineating his bass lines -- they're always super-clear, whether he's playing Bach or Gershwin -- this was strong Nakamatsu. (..) The pianist's fine shadings were on display: dialing his volume in and out, adjusting the weight of chords, the color and sheerness of his textures. One of his interludes arrived like a subway, from distant rumble to roaring presence.  – January 17, 2015

Mr. Nakamatsu’s busy summer 2015 season included appearances at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Chautauqua Music Festival, and the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, where he is co-artistic director together with Mr. Manasse. During the 2014/15 season, Mr. Nakamatsu appeared with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, Symphoria Syracuse, and the Rochester Philharmonic. He joined the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet for performances of Ludwig Thuille’s Wind Quintet in Austin, TX, Santa Fe, NM, and in Charlottesville, VA, and in January he was heard in Phoenix, AZ and in San Jose, CA with the Jupiter String Quartet with the Brahms Piano Quintet. Mr. Nakamatsu also continued his celebrated collaboration with clarinetist Jon Manasse for a series of concerts across the United States throughout the season. As a solo recitalist, Mr. Nakamatsu appeared in recitals across California and at the Sanibel Music Festival. In February 2015, he joined the jury of the Ninth US International Chopin Competition in Miami.

Mr. Nakamatsu has been an active guest soloist with leading orchestras throughout his career; among them the orchestras of Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Rochester, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Berlin, Milan, and Tokyo. He has collaborated with such esteemed conductors as James Conlon, Philippe Entremont, Marek Janowski, Raymond Leppard, Gerard Schwarz, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Michael Tilson Thomas and Osmo Vänskä.  His numerous summer engagements have included appearances at the Aspen, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Caramoor, Vail, Wolftrap, and Britt festivals.  In 1999, Mr. Nakamatsu performed at the White House at the special invitation of President and Mrs. Clinton. 

Among the many chamber ensembles with which Mr. Nakamatsu has collaborated are the Brentano, Jupiter, Miami, Tokyo, Prazak, St. Lawrence, and Ying String Quartets.  He also tours frequently with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet and in 2008 debuted on the Philharmonic’s chamber music series performing with the Quintet and members of the orchestra.  In 2008, the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo released its first CD (Brahms Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano) which received the highest praise from The New York Times Classical Music Editor James R. Oestreich, who named it a “Best of the Year” choice for 2008.  In addition to their joint concert performances Mr. Nakamatsu and Mr. Manasse serve as Artistic Directors of the esteemed Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, founded by pianist Samuel Sanders in 1979.

Mr. Nakamatsu records exclusively for Harmonia Mundi USA, and has released critically acclaimed twelve CDs to date.  All have garnered high critical praise.  Notable releases include Mr. Nakamatsu’s first collaboration with Jon Manasse with Brahms’ op. 120 Sonatas, a  disc that received the highest praise from The New York Times Classical Music Editor James R. Oestreich, who named it a “Best of the Year” choice for 2008; an all-Gershwin recording with Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic featuring Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F which rose to number three on Billboard’s classical music charts; and a recently released trio disc of works by Brahms, Beethoven, and Weber with Mr. Manasse and cellist Clive Greensmith, which has elicited brilliant reviews from The New York Times  (“Mr. Nakamatsu’s fleet-fingered clarity enhancing the vivacious outer movements and all three playing with deep expression in the Adagio”),  Gramophone  (” a most enjoyable disc, beautifully played and recorded, with the three players joining together to make a perfect ensemble”), and audiophile edition  (“Every once in a while a disc comes along so good that I would award it six stars if my editor allowed such things”).

A high school teacher of German with no formal conservatory training, Jon Nakamatsu’s electrifying performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto won him the Gold Medal at the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition amidst a field of experienced competition warriors.  Mr. Nakamatsu had studied privately with the late Marina Derryberry from the age of six, and worked with Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the great pianist Artur Schnabel.  He also studied composition and orchestration with Dr. Leonard Stein of the Schoenberg Institute at the University of Southern California, and 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.