Jon Nakamatsu, the 1997 Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn competition, opens the Steinway Society‘s 25 anniversary season with a program of Chopin, Schubert, and early Brahms. The San Jose native says the Society was one of the first presenters to work with him in the early days of his career, and have been a wonderful partner ever since. The recital is at the McAfee Performing Arts and Lecture Center in Saratoga on the 21st.

There’s more information about the concert, and the whole season at the Steinway Society’s website.

“The first half is completely impromptu,” he says. “There are two impromptus of Chopin, and four of Schubert. And it’s kind of an interesting exploration of what composers really thought of the impromptu as a form. The impromptu aspect of it, the improvisatory aspect of it is more in the execution than actually in the form, because all of these pieces are rather rigid ABA, for the most part. Which means that they always come back, they’re always predictable, but in some ways, the trick is to make it sound like you’re making it up on the spot.” The second half consists of the first Piano Sonata by Johannes Brahms, a piece that was part of Nakamatsu’s Van Cliburn win. “I haven’t played it in a long time, but it’s a sonata that I’ve really loved and found so interesting. Partly because Brahms, who was so famous for his huge symphonies and big chamber works, was never comfortable in the piano sonata realm, and in fact wrote three gigantic piano sonatas at the beginning of his composing career, and never returned to them. And in fact spent his later years writing short pieces for the piano. I think he was symphonic, a chamber writer at heart, and you can even feel that in this particular work, where a lot of it is not very pianistic, but it is orchestral. And so one of the challenges, I think, for the pianist is to find a way to orchestrate while negotiating these somewhat awkward pianistic passages.”