A Remarkable Career

Still going strong

Now in his third decade of touring worldwide, American pianist Jon Nakamatsu continues to draw critical and public acclaim for his intensity, elegance and electrifying solo, concerto and chamber music performances. Catapulted to international attention in 1997 as the Gold Medalist of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition—the only American to achieve this distinction since 1981—Mr. Nakamatsu subsequently developed a multi-faceted career that encompasses recording, education, arts administration and public speaking in addition to his vast concert schedule.

This season, Mr. Nakamatsu returns to live performances throughout the United States and in Europe. Between 2020 and the spring of 2021, he was engaged in a myriad of online events including recording, masterclasses and virtual interviews and lectures for organizations such as the Chautauqua Institution Piano Festival, Colorado College Summer Music Festival, Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute, the Van Cliburn Foundation and the Chopin Foundation of the United States. In collaboration with clarinetist Jon Manasse, Mr. Nakamatsu also produced and curated an online series of interviews and historical performances taken from the archives of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, where he and Mr. Manasse have served as Artistic Directors since 2007.

Mr. Nakamatsu has been guest soloist with over 150 orchestras worldwide, including those of Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Florence, Los Angeles, Milan, San Francisco, Seattle, Tokyo and Vancouver. He has worked with such esteemed conductors as Marin Alsop, Sergiu Comissiona, James Conlon, Philippe Entremont, Hans Graf, Marek Janowski, Raymond Leppard, Gerard Schwarz, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Michael Tilson Thomas and Osmo Vänskä.

As a recitalist, Mr. Nakamatsu has appeared in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Musée d’Orsay and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and in major centers such as Boston, Chicago, Houston, London, Milan, Munich, Prague, Singapore, Warsaw and Zurich. In Beijing he has been heard at the Theater of the Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People, China Conservatory, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts. His numerous summer engagements included appearances at the Aspen, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Caramoor, Vail, Wolftrap, Colorado, Brevard, Britt, Colorado College, Evian, Interlochen, Klavierfestival Ruhr, Santa Fe and Sun Valley festivals. In 2022 he participated in an extended residency at the Bowdoin Festival in Maine and returned to the Chautauqua Institution in New York where he has served as Artist in Residence since the summer of 2018.

With clarinetist Jon Manasse, Mr. Nakamatsu tours as a member of the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo. Following its Boston debut in 2004, the Duo released its first CD for harmonia mundi usa (Brahms Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano) which received the highest praise from The New York Times Classical Music Editor James Oestreich, who named it among the “Best of the Year” for 2008. A frequent chamber musician, Mr. Nakamatsu has collaborated repeatedly with ensembles such as the Emerson, Escher, Jupiter, Miró, Modigliani, Prazak, St. Lawrence, Tokyo and Ying string quartets, the Imani Winds and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet with whom he made multiple tours beginning in 2000.

Mr. Nakamatsu’s 13 CDs recorded for harmonia mundi usa have garnered extraordinary critical praise. An all-Gershwin recording with Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra featuring Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F remained in the top echelons of Billboard’s classical charts for over six months. Other acclaimed discs include the recording premiere of Lukas Foss’ first Piano Concerto with Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony, the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Tokyo String Quartet in the quartet’s final recording as an ensemble, and a solo recording including Robert Schumann’s Second Piano Sonata whose YouTube posting has garnered over 800K hits.

Mr. Nakamatsu has been profiled extensively in print, radio, television and online. He has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, in Readers Digest magazine, and on Live from Here! with Chris Thile. In 1999, Mr. Nakamatsu performed at the White House at the special invitation of President and Mrs. Clinton. He has also performed for the United States Mayor’s Convention in San Francisco, and in 2001 was the featured guest artist during the opening and dedication of the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II in Washington DC.

A former high school teacher of German with no formal conservatory training, Mr. Nakamatsu studied privately with Marina Derryberry for over 20 years beginning at the age of six; worked with Karl Ulrich Schnabel since the age of 9; and trained for 10 years in composition, theory and orchestration with Dr. Leonard Stein of the University of Southern California’s Schoenberg Institute. Mr. Nakamatsu holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University in German Studies and secondary education. In 2015, he joined the piano faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and lives in the Bay Area with his wife Kathy and young son Gavin.