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Pianist Yuki Negishi in recital

Pianist Yuki Negishi in recital
Pianist Yuki Negishi in recital
Pianist Yuki Negishi in recital

Gershwin, Kapustin, Bonds, Norton, Wave, Arlen/Jarrett Yuki Negishi (piano). Holy Trinity Church,  South Woodford, 2pm, 16.06.2024

Gershwin  Three Preludes (1926) 

Kapustin  Contemplation, Op. 47 (1987)

Margaret BondsTroubled Water 

Christopher NortonBulgarian Sketches (2023) 

Sally Wave  Sunshine Droplets Falling in the Quiet River, Op. 13 (2024) 

Harold Arlen  Somewhere Over the Rainbow (arr. Keith Jarrett, 1984) 

Gershwin  Rhapsody in Blue (solo piano version) 


The lovely church of Holy Trinity, South Woodford was the venue for a Sunday afternoon Father’s Day recital by Yuki Negishi, a pianist who as impressed previously through several of her releases. One of those discs, simply named Preludes, indeed includes Gershwin’s three. As Negishi explained, three out of 24 ain’t bad (she more correctly stated that Gershwin had intended to composer 24: they were to have been called The Melting Pot). The Preludes were premiered by the composer at a joint recital wit Marguerite d’Alvarez (a contralto) at Hotel Roosevelt in New York on December 4, 1926. 

The first (Allegro ben ritmato e deciso) begins with a single-line blues fanfare and its echo before moving ono a bass-driven rhythmic section. Two aspects of Negishi’s playing immediately became clear: her ability to negotiate the piano and venue in terms of dynamic (it would be easy to overpower the audience) and a mastery of maintaining textural clarity. The central Prelude is an Andante con moto e poco rubato; Gershwin has his own type of rubato, teasing in a jazzy way, and Negishi has it perfectly. The finale is the shortest of the three, originally marked “Agitato” in the manuscript but later published as Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, as with the first movement. And delivered cleanly and with lots of energy here. 

Here’s Negishi’s recording of No. 2, on the Quartz label:

Negishi included Nikolai Kapustin’s  Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 34 (‘Sonata-Fantasia’) on her disc, Enigma. Kapustin (1939-2020) is a fascinating composer who was also a very active jazz musician. His Contemplation is sometimes known as ‘Meditation’ and was written in 1987. Marked ‘Lento’ and ‘a piacere,’ it does indeed flow freely as if improvised (looking at the score, it does appear like a transcribed improvisation).  It was nice to have a more modern take on jazz after the Gershwin, and Negishi brought great understanding to the score, not least in the creation of harmonic oases. Perhaps there was a hint of over-projection at times here: relatively long stretches seemed to remain at a fairly high dynamic level.  

Here’s a score-video of Contemplation, played by the composer:

Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-72) is mainly remembered today via her arrangements of Spirituals (and that is exactly what was heard here): Troubled Water is based on the Spiritual ‘Wade in the Water’. Bonds studied composition with the rather more famous Florence Price at Nothwestern University. Bond’s music has recently been championed by Dr Samantha Ege, notably on Ege’s disc Black Renaissane Woman. Bond’s Troubled Water had initially been part of the Spirituals Suite, but was published as a stand-alone piece by Sam Fox Publishing (New York) in 1967; the full set was only published in 2020. Bonds’ piece is effectively a paraphrase on ‘Wade in the Water,’ and Negishi relished every gesture, finding just the right ‘swing’, delivering the melody over an almost barcarolle-like accompaniment with silken legato.  There is a version by the composer (still unpublished, apparently) for cello and piano: see this article

Many an ABRSM student will know the name of Christopher Norton. His six Bulgarian Sketches of 2023 are a pleasant set, sometimes inevitably invoking Bartók. Negishi’s way with accents, giving them a little ‘edge’ was a notable part of her performance.  Far more interesting as music was Sally Wave’s Sunshine Droplets Falling in the Quiet River, written this year and dedicated to Negishi. The temptation to replicate Impressionism must have been massive, but all credit to Wave for finding her own way. There is no doubting the watery elements of this piece in its fluidity, but these were heard in combination with an almost clockwork, pristine writing that held great individuality. I look forward to hearing more of Wave’s music in due course. 

Everyone knows Somewhere over the Rainbow. Keith Jarrett performed a version in Tokyo in 1984 (the performance is freely available) and Negishi transcribed it, her performance, like Jarrett’s, cherishing the melody. 

Here’s Jarrett himself, back in 1984:

Negishi herself offered a very special moment, leading to a highly impressive Rhapsody in Blue, wheriein Negishi was clarinettist, horn player (the less famous sustained long note countermelody  beautifully delineated from its surroundings), trumpeter, massed string section and, of course, solo pianist. Again, it was the clarity and cleanliness that were so notable – no easy feat in a score as tough as this. It was a real virtuoso feast, but the greatest achievement was the variety of colour Negishi found in her instrument.  

A terrific way to spend a weekend lunchtime. On June 20 (Thursday), Negishi repeats this programme at St Mary-le-Strand at 8pm. 

You can buy Enigma from Amazon at what looks like a special price of £6.99 here.

Preludes | Stream on IDAGIO
Listen to Preludes by Yuki Negishi, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, George Gershwin. Stream now on IDAGIO
Pianist Yuki Negishi in recital


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