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MALCOLM MILLER hears Asuka Nakamura
at Leighton House, London


In a world teeming with accomplished young pianists, it takes a special spark to set an audience alight with excitement, and to convey a sense of promise to come. Such was the impression at London's Leighton House recital on 13 December 2001, by seventeen year old Asuka Nakamura, whose programme regaled a capacity crowd with a stimulating blend of European and Japanese works. The concert formed a highlight of her UK tour which has seen performances in Manchester and Oxford (Hollywell Music Rooms) and held under the aegis of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, for whom she performed a lunchtime recital in St James. It was sponsored jointly by Namura Bank Plc -- an adventurous patron whose recent ventures include the LSO with Rostropovich and Bashmet, and a Mahler 7th played by the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Ashkenazy -- and The Sweden Japan Music Study Foundation. Indeed Ms Nakamura has performed often in Stockholm, where she studies with the Japanese pianist and pedagogue Sonoko Kase.

The programme opened with two Schubert Impromptus, Op 90 No 2 and No 4, which immediately displayed an artistic temperament of sensitivity to colour and an originality. Indeed her use of gentle rubato in the final recurrence of the main theme of the A flat Impromptu inventively injected a note of nostalgia and reminiscence that was both touching and, to my ears, quite new. Chopin's Scherzo Op 39 showed off her formidable power, and colouristic control, particularly in the delicate embellishment to the central chorale, despite a rather slow tempo here in relation to the main Allegro, yet one sensed some stretching of technical limits in this work. Asuka Nakamura was at her best in the colourstic Japanese works and Debussy's Suite Bergamasque.

In Toru Takemitsu's La Pause Interrompue, which exploits the symbolism of the 'ma' -- a reflective silence in Japanese aesthetics -- delicate lyricism in the first movement's melody poised over limpid Messaien-like tone clusters, was contrasted by the resonant leaps between chord and melody in the more expressionistic central movement, and the more edgy, fragmentary 'Song of love' that concludes this miniature triptych.

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Copyright © 21 December 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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