Tropicult 2/28/17


Norton continues to provide an artistic beacon, showcasing Kothari’s beauty of the classical craft

By Jenelle Deguzman
February 28, 2017

There is a reason there is silence in art museums.

The whispered, hushed tones of meaning that come from patrons as you walk past your favorite painting, be it a Renaissance portrait, or modern abstract sculptures. The same reason the overhead air conditioning is so prevalent, the echoes of high-heels and boat shoes across the most likely, wooden flooring.It’s because, like a church of your choosing, or even a tranquil environment if you don’t believe in religion, is sacred.

It’s an intimate bastion where your soul can be replenished, in both the eyes, body, and mind. In modernized words, it is the original “app store”.

Writers block? Look at this Jenny Holzer display of text. Can’t get the image out of your marble? Behold Renaissance era busts. Paintbrush stuck in the acrylic and you want to throw the brushes in the air? There’s a Van Gogh for that.

It is a place of wonder and for those smaller cities where the district isn’t afforded many opportunities but you can feel the art surging from the cracks in the pavement, it is Oz. A magical land for the Dorothy’s who want to break out of the norm, and want to walk the Yellow Brick Roads of art.

The Emerald City glistening in the fair distance, is the Norton Museum of Art; and though it is currently under construction to further its expanse, it is still glowing.

Swap the emerald green for those familiar white halls, where it’s ongoing series “Live! At the Norton” is helping another form of art that is passionate, pure and not often given the spotlight nor universal hospitality it deserves: classical.

A genre holding hundreds of branches in it, with composers such as Vivaldi, Brahms, and Bach amongst others, with compositions created with as much meticulous care as Michelangelo.

But the thing overlooked more than anything else, are the stories that are hidden in the compositions themselves. The mini-opera like tales that range anywhere from Shakespearean like theatrics to the deeply personal that touch your soul, all written in a language of notes and chords.

The poets and storytellers of this art form help to not only tell their stories to new generations but also weave in new threads to study and awe at, the Wizard giving magnificence and hope to the masses.


It is without a doubt that Yoko Sata Kothari is one of these musical magicians, demonstrating a regality in her playing, as well as wanting to further education in her program, “Family Ties: Mother, Father, Brother & More!”, showing not just the mastery of the art, but the depth of storytelling in them.

After Thanking the crowd for spending their Sunday at the performance, her love for the genre shows in her selection, saying she looks at her program “like a five-course menu at a restaurant. I started out with something light, like an appetizer. Then I go into soup and salad, the main course and then, of course, dessert.”.

Opening with the full version of Brahms infamous Lullaby, which Kothari shared was not dedicated to his own child, but his friends, it was a beautiful appetizer to what was to come.

The choice of works to highlight each subject were not only perfect for the program, but emotionally breathtaking. Bach’s swooping programmatic “Capriccio On The Departure of the Beloved Brother, BWV 992”, which Kothari shared was the only known surviving instrumental piece by the musician, highlighted the complicated emotions of Bach’s older brother leaving for Sweden, as she also described the meaning and intricacies of the 6 pieces, ranging from the family asking him not to leave, going so far as warning of dangers, the eventual realization of leaving and ending on the unique 6th piece, an imitation of the horn of the postillion in which the brother leaves.

The Family meaning of the piece continued in Feruccio Busoni’s Fantasia, dedicated to his Father who passed away. The deeply moving and deep pieces painted pictures that we are used to in an opposite sense, where the music highlights the film scenes it’s most often associated with. In it, Kothari’s attention to detail continues in her playing, where you can feel the rumble of the Father’s low voice in the deeper octaves, and the depths of sorrow and mourning in her beautiful touches of the Steinway & Sons keys.

It is the small details that make up the beauty of the genre, and their meaning.

It is here that it’s important to point out the depth and extent of how much classical music has influenced other genres. In the earlier Bach piece, you feel small touches of jazz, and in opus like forms both in the above piece and the following composition “About Mother: Op. 28” by the lesser known composer, Josef Suk (which also comes with a bit of drama as violin trained Suk wrote it about his wife & mother to his child, who was also the daughter of his own mentor and teacher), which range from the more familiarized light twinkles to swooping film like scores.There is unparalleled emotion in pieces like these, and they aren’t limited to piano. We see them in violin, cello, flute, and even guitar, where it can be argued that post-rock is the modernization of classical music.

The art can only be fully executed by those who have an equivalent love for it.Kothari’s playing is both elegant and masterful, each touch or press of the keys bouncing off the walls with such perfection, it feels as if you’re listening to a record.

Moreover, Kothari makes it look not just easy, but possible. Piano prodigies and classically trained children and adults are responsible for the gold dust that helps to keep the power of the genre alive, but it is Kothari’s open playing and accessibility that makes every note soar around the room, and inspires you to not just think but believe that you can play too. That it isn’t limited to the public’s view of aristocracy and diamonds and pearls that so many associates the genre with, but that even a kid who might not have as much or have a baby grand, can learn, play and love classical music just the same. And it is that element that is not only so essential, vital, to keeping the genre and beauty of classical music and the work of composers alive.

Kothari was eager to share her dessert throughout the performance, and rightly so. It is here that I must add as a viewer and writer, that I often wish I could post the audio from concerts, as they are sometimes too beautiful to describe. Kothari’s performance of Korean composer, Han, and his variation on “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)”. While not only requiring dexterity, also requires immense prowess, which she most definitely has.The piece feels like a Space Mountain speed like ride throughout musical history, crescendoing from jazz, to classical, to blues and back, highlighting not only the similarities throughout all of music’s many forms, but the togetherness of it all.

As Kothari masterfully finished the piece to a standing ovation, she gave another treat, an encore dedicated to Grandfathers. The Auld Lang Syne like melody was touching, as once again, she painted pictures with every note, photographs and polaroids of daughters, sons, and grandchildren with those we often seek wisdom from.

It’s perhaps poignant, as the classical genre is the Grandfather Willow of music, the first piece and seed of all the other branches. It now, more than ever, needs gardeners to help keep it alive, and grow it even further in a future made unsure by orange weeds.

And Kothari is not only a gardener, but a groundskeeper. And it was nothing short of a thrill to see her bloom.

Palm Beach Arts Paper – 10/10/12

trillium476Trillium kicks off St. Paul’s series

By Greg Stepanich
October 10, 2012

As it has done now for several seasons, the Trillium Piano Trio of Jupiter opened the new season of concerts at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and this year brought along a good piece of fresh repertoire to deepen its offerings.

The Piano Trio of the Swiss composer Frank Martin, written in 1925, is based, as its subtitle says, on Irish folksongs, and Martin made a serious, sinewy piece out of the tunes. The trio – pianist Yoko Sata Kothari, violinist Ruby Berland and cellist Benjamin Salsbury – gave a decent account of the piece, helping to acquaint the rather large concert audience with a worthy work of early 20th-century modernism.

Standing out in this performance were Salsbury’s solo work at the beginning of the second movement, which showed off his dark, warm sound, and the overall high spirits and rhythmic infectiousness of the third movement, a vigorous jig. But while it was an effective, engaging reading overall, it lacked a certain lived-in quality that would have allowed some more contrast and drama. The church itself doesn’t offer a lot of reverb, which would help, but the work is written in definable sections, and they needed to be set off with greater light and shade.

The concert opened with the lone, and late, Piano Trio (Op. 120) from 1923 of Gabriel Fauré, which like all this master’s late works has an elusive, refined character that can be hard to bring off despite the beauty of Fauré’s first-rate melodic gift, much in evidence here. Kothari opened the work with gentleness and mystery, and solo passages from Berland and Salsbury were deeply Romantic and evocative.

The end of the second movement, which begins with simple chords like one of Fauré’s songs, climaxes in an intense dialogue between violin and cello that needs a tight focus by both players to make narrative sense. It was somewhat aimless in this performance, though interesting; a stronger sense of dramatic line would have helped. The finale is difficult to bring off, composed as it is of a dramatic string motif that reminds everyone of Pagliacci (a coincidence, Fauré said), and a jumpy, skittish piano motif that contrasts starkly with it. Kothari did a good job of bringing it out, and the movement came off effectively.

The concert closed with the second of Mendelssohn’s piano trios (in C minor, Op. 66). It’s a beautiful, underrated work, even with its secure repertory status. The tense opening theme is stated in unison by violin and cello after the piano entrance, but Berland and Salsbury were not in tune with each other, which spoiled the effect. The rest of the movement had strength and drive, which helped make up for it, and Kothari had clearly worked hard to bring off her cascading solo figures in the middle.

The second movement had a swift kind of lightness despite its Andante espressivo marking, which is more in keeping with older practice and fits the music better. All three players brought plenty of prettiness to this music’s long melodic outpouring without overdoing it, which was refreshing. The exciting scherzo was taken a nice brisk clip that didn’t flag, much to the musicians’ credit, and the finale was offered in good storm-and-calm style, with plenty of passion for the outer sections and graceful sturdiness for the chorale (which is Mendelssohn’s own, though drawn from Gelobet sei Du, Jesu Christ).

All three of the musicians in the Trillium Piano Trio have considerable ability and experience, and they are to be commended for continuing to pursue this substantial literature. They play with skill and dedication, but they could use some more ensemble time together so they could add more contrast, more shape, and a more organic feel to the ebb and flow of the music. Some more frequent performances, in other words, are in order. And if that happens, the payoff could be handsome. – 03/03/08

Review by Dave Lewis

Yoko's first CDAlthough the universe of music written for the piano is truly enormous and of impressive variety, there’s only a small portion of the repertoire that a concert artist is more or less expected to play. Whilst a pianist might be able to sneak into a program something brazen by Bartók, Ginastera‘s fiery Malambo, a luxuriant Feuille d’Album of Medtner, or some other desirable obscurity, the reality is simpler — certain pieces of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, and Chopin. That is the bread and butter of piano players, who are just as likely, if not more so, to have a career performing at college campuses, community centers, and at private soirées as they are playing at concert halls in major cities. A breach has opened between classical record companies and the majority of classical artists — record companies aren’t really looking to do a lot of standard literature with artists, no matter how well they might play it, as they already have a backlog of such recordings by others sitting in the warehouse. Artists, however, have to respond to the public to a certain extent by playing pieces they know and want to hear. Moreover, artists want to have recordings on hand to vend at their recitals, as this not only helps generate some additional income, it provides a memento of the artist’s performance that continues to give long after the concert program has disappeared into a scrapbook.

An increasing number of artists have decided to take matters into their own hands; to hell with the record companies’ dust-gathering inventories, we are going to make our own recordings of whatever we want, because we need them. Yoko Sata Kothari is just such an artist; a winner of a number of piano competitions in her native Japan, Kothari ultimately settled in Florida, where she teaches and plays a round of concerts year round in addition to periodically returning to Japan to play. YDK Productions is Kothari‘s own concern, and she has produced at least two CDs, of which Piano Works of J.S. Bach, Beethoven & Liszt is the first. All of these pieces are well known and often recorded, and chances are Kothari wouldn’t have been able to sell this program to a big — or even a moderately sized — classical record concern. The recording is a little dry, and the Bach performances, while good, seem a little more technically pristine than particularly emotive. But the rest of it is superb; a fearsome, crashing Liszt Funerailles, a powerful and lightly syncopated reading of Beethoven‘s Sonata No. 31 in A flat, and concluding with a Liszt La Campanella that resonates with the same romantic authority as a crackling old 78 of some legendary master of the past.

With Yoko Sata Kothari, the major league classical labels don’t know what they’re missing. However, that comes as no concern to her audiences; if their ears are on straight, this disc will serve both as a memento of a terrific pianist and a source of enjoyment for some time to come. One must admire Kothari‘s pluck in going her own way; that she does it for the most part “right” is an aspect that many of her colleagues are still working on in producing their own CDs; more power to all of them, but congratulations to Kothari! – 01/24/08

Review by Dave Lewis

Yoko's 2nd CDPiano Works of Ravel and Balakirev, self-produced by Florida-based pianist Yoko Sata Kothari through her own YDK Productions imprint, has an interesting and inspired programmatic theme behind it. Subtitled “French Impressionism and Russian Romanticism,” it takes advantage of the natural confluence between the nineteenth century Russian nationalists with French impressionist literature by splitting her disc between well-chosen examples from each genre. The disc opens with Ravel‘s Gaspard de la Nuit, and a superb “Gaspard” it is; Kothari is broad and muscular in “Ondine,” appropriately static and restrained in “Le Gibet,” and she brings out a wealth of hidden dynamics in the difficult “Scarbo,” a piece some pianists are just satisfied to get through. Her Pavane pour une infante défunte is sensitive and well measured; Kothari avoids the trap of lingering too much on certain phrases and delivers a balanced, nuanced interpretation of what many might consider an overly familiar piece.

Balakirev was by all accounts the finest pianist to be found among the “Mighty Handful,” though of his many piano pieces, only the flashy Islamey has managed to retain its place in the repertoire, which is dominated by Mussorgsky‘s Pictures at an Exhibition. Islamey is certainly here, in a strong, aggressive reading that is nonetheless very clear in its exposition of the many lines of counterpoint in Balakirev‘s harmonically busy piano piece, and Kothari‘s reading of the slower middle section is especially good. The real gems, though, are Balakirev‘s stormy B minor Scherzo and the Nocturnes. One aspect of Kothari‘s playing that is appealing is her power; she has a strong, masculine approach that is refreshing in a piano market where delicacy and holding back is considered king. However, when sensitivity is called for, Kothari can deliver it without descending into bathos; she keeps things moving.

The piano sound is warm with a very good sense of stereo spread; the sense of space helps open up the Ravel, particularly in the Pavane. Piano Works of Ravel and Balakirev is a better-than-average piano disc made by an artist for supporting one’s concert appearances, which in Kothari‘s case have been largely concentrated in Florida, where she teaches. The disc is available through her website,