Asagi Nakata at St Catz

Life

Asagi Nakata is a first year pianist studying at London’s Royal Academy of Music on a scholarship, under the tutelage of Russian pedagogue Tatiana Sarkissova. She was 1st Prize Winner of the Liszt International Competition in 2009 (at age 13 no less), and has performed at many prestigious venues.

During her performance at St Catz, she displayed all the makings of a future star: bravado technique, a cheeky sense of adventure, and above all a sense of really giving your entire life force to the instrument.

First we heard a dramatic performance of Liszt’s Dante Sonata, or rather a fantasia quasi sonata. The work touches on many of the macabre themes Liszt likes to use (reminding one of his Totentanz), with the name derived from literature concerning the afterlife. There are two main themes in the piece: the first is tempestuous, minor and chromatic, perhaps symbolising wailing souls in hell, and the second a heavenly chorale in F-sharp major. It is considered one of the most difficult pieces in the repertory, but Nakata brilliantly inhabited the piece’s dual temperament, negotiating tricky corners with ease.

At times she was uninhibited, almost leaping off her chair with abandon, yet at quieter moments she was mesmerising in her hushed ease.

Next we heard Chopin’s Étude, Op. 25 No. 5, a work which also presents two polarised sections. Subtle, paced nuance is what is needed for Chopin, and Nakata had this down to a tee. The nostalgic central section was particularly effective in its crystalline left-hand voicing and dynamic contrast, and the sonority she wrung out of the piano for the final chord was nothing short of glorious. The fact that the piano at Catz does not get serviced very often at all made this all the more impressive!

Last in her programme was one of the extremely difficult Liszt–Paganini Études, No. 6 in A minor, after Paganini’s famous 24th Caprice. The piece is full of outrageous technical demands, but again Nakata threw herself at it with full force, and came out on top. The audience were whooping by the end.

For an encore she played a little Haydn slow movement: a nice balance after such a tour due force.

 

 

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