Asagi Nakata at St Mary’s Teatime Classic Archive Series


Tuesday December 18th 2.0 pm repeated on 26 May for Teatime Classic Archive series

Asagi Nakata piano recital

Bach: Prelude and Fugue G minor BWV 861

Mozart: Sonata in D K 311

Szymanowski: Variations in B flat minor Op 3

Handel/Liszt: Sarabande and Chaconne from ‘Almira’ S 181

Liszt: Transcendental Etude no 8 ‘Wild Jagd’

Asagi Nakata was born in Japan 1995 and recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with Diploma, (DipRam) and have been awarded the “Francis Simms Prize” for her outstanding studentship and for her exceptionally high final recital mark of the year. She was generously supported by the Constance Bastard Memorial Scholarship from the Academy which enabled her to study with Professor Christopher Elton. She previously studied with a scholarship at the Junior Department of the Royal College with Professor Ian Jones, and with Professor Tatiana Sarkissova.She has won several competitions including the EPTA Belgian International, Franz Liszt Weimar (2009), the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Junior (2010) and was runner up in the Windsor International Piano Competition in 2015. Other successes include First Prize in the Marlow International Concerto Competition (2007), Third Prize in the James Mottram International Competition (2008), and Fourth Prize in the Ettlingen International Competition (2010). Asagi was recently selected as one of fourteen semi-finalists in the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition which took place in October 2017.Asagi has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and St. James’s, Piccadilly, and is a regular soloist in the St. Paul’s Bedford Lunchtime Concert Series and the Emmanuel United Reform Church, Cambridge Lunchtime Concert Series. Performances abroad include Japan, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Prague, France, Germany in the presence of Alfred Brendel and Poland where she was invited as guest performer at the 64th Duszniki International Chopin piano festival. She has performed with the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of South Bohemia, Southbank Sinfonia and Finchley Chamber Orchestra.Asagi is grateful for the support from the Drake Calleja Trust, Talent Unlimited, and The Countess of Munster Musical Trust for their Derek Butler Award. She is also a Concordia Foundation Artist. In her spare time Asagi enjoys cooking and learning German. In recognition of her high achievements in music at the Royal Academy of Music, Asagi received the Greta Parkinson Prize, Vivian Langrish Prize, the Peter Latham gift and the Nancy Dickinson Award.

Asagi brought a beautifully shaped programme to Perivale and I was very glad of the opportunity to listen to it in this repeat from the St Mary’s archive.Both the Szymanowski and the Handel/Liszt are rarities in any programme and here they were contrasted with the Bach G minor Prelude and Fugue from Book 1   and the little D major sonata K.311 by Mozart finishing with the 8th of the Transcendental studies of Liszt: Der  Wilde Jagd.It was a programme that showed of her crystalline clarity and simple unaffected musicianship.Allied to a tone palette that ranged from the most exquisite of pianissimi to the most sumptuous of fortissimi always with the velvety
rich sound of a truly Grand Piano.
Der Wilde Jagd showed off all these qualities to the full and was the final piece on the programme.
What better way to sum up all that had gone before.
This was a musicianly performance in which this little tone poem was given such shape and colour together with a technical control that gave such clarity to all that she did. From the savage opening of the hunt to the playful call of the horn and finally the sumptuous melodic outpouring of the central section.Played with real passion and such beauty of sound that contrasted so well with the final tempestuous outrage that was played quite fearlessly with superb control not only of speed and accuracy but also of absolute fidelity to Liszt’s very precise indications of fortissimo,pianissimo and staccato and marcato.
An encore after that would have defeated most pianists but Asagi still had a trump card up her sleeve with the study op 10.n.1 by Chopin.
These studies dedicated to Liszt can in the right hands be pure poetry.
And it was this that she gave us.
Not the usual barn storming opening study of the first more transcendental set of 12  but a full blooded musical account with some very delicate colours  and fleetingly articulated arpeggios that contrasted so well with the overall grandeur of the opening.The bass could have been even more pronounced as the arpeggios are only an accompaniment to the grandiose organ stops of the left hand.
Coming after such a long and varied programme it was indeed a tour de force from this deceptively delicate looking young pianist.
The programme had begun with a very beautifully shaped Prelude in G minor BWV 861 from the 1st book of the 48.A  flexibility that gave great shape to this most mellifluous of preludes before the absolute clarity of her playing in the fugue.The subject of this four part fugue always allowed to appear so clearly with the contrapuntal meanderings leaving it the front of  stage even in the final two majestic bars.
The little sonata in D K 311  by Mozart was played with such a joyous sparkle.The ornaments like jewels gleaming in the bright sunlight of this almost Scarlatti like opening movement.The Andante con espressione was allowed to sing with such touching simplicity and her great sense of balance allowed the melodic line to be shaped so sensitively and with such aristocratic good taste. The Rondeau was played with a great sense of ‘joie de vivre’ with very delicate dynamic contrasts with a charming question and answer between the hands.The cadenza gave just a momentary respite before the return of the rondo and the sparkling passage work and drive to the final  heroic chords.
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The cycle of twelve variations on Szymanowski’s own theme was composed during the years 1901-1903 and dedicated to his friend Artur Rubinstein.
It is in the late Romantic style, echoing the tradition of the nineteenth-century composers of piano music, above all  Schumann and  Liszt. The majority of the variations are of strikingly virtuoso character, emanating with the brilliance of great piano playing, and demonstrating young Szymanowski’s perfect intuition for the technical and timbral possibilities of the piano.
Rich harmony, strongly saturated with chromaticisms, indicates that the composer was by then standing at the edge of the major-minor tonal system, and only a step away from creating his own, new musical language.They were played with such subtle colouring.
The beautifully shaped theme  was followed by the variations each one characterised by such a superb sense of balance.From the sumptuous tenor register with filigree  accompaniment to  the very busy  variation almost in Rachmaninovian style passing via the sombre third to the lightweight octaves thrown off with such ease  The most original  variation-  Andantino quasi tempo di mazurka introduces a stylisation of a Polish folk dance and thus, in a sense, foreshadows the much later Mazurkas op 50 also dedicated to Rubinstein.
The final variation was played with great passion and technical assurance and brought this brilliant early work to an exciting conclusion.
The other unjustly neglected work that Asagi had included was the Handel/Liszt Sarabande and Chaconne from ‘Almira’ S 181.A set work  for the Liszt competition in Utrecht in which Asagi was one of the fourteen selected to take part.
Leslie Howard, the Chairman of the jury, has so eloquently described this work: ‘Almira was Handel’s first opera, and it received such scant attention that it is little short of amazing that Liszt should have taken it up, writing a sort of double set of variations on the two dances which occur near the beginning of the work (Chaconne then Sarabande in the opera). Curiously, it is the Sarabande which predominates, rather like a Bach-type chaconne, whereas the Chaconne proper is of the balletic variety and nothing to do with repeated bass lines. This almost amounts to an original work of Liszt’s (and Humphrey Searle so catalogued it) but Handel always remains part of the equation, even in the grandiose major key transformation of the Sarabande at the end.’
Asagi played it with sumptuous sound  and also with tender delicacy and great sense of colour.Her superb technical assurance  allowed Liszt’s grandiose rhetoric to be shaped with great musical meaning.Another work of Liszt that unjustly neglected has been brought to our notice via the inspiring and tireless work of Leslie Howard.Asagi’s superb performance had one longing to hear it programmed  more often side by side with the more noted works of the still not completely appreciated genius of the Romantic era that is Franz Liszt.


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