Canadian pianist Ryo Yanagitani concluded the S&R Foundation’s inaugural Overtures Holiday Concert Series with a masterful and expressive performance of Chopin’s four ballades on Friday evening at the historic Evermay Estate in Georgetown.

With a gracious and didactic personality, the Yale School of Music doctoral candidate engaged the audience in introductory remarks before he sat down to play. Once at the keyboard, he proved that he is a pianist’s pianist — a chamber musician who has a deep appreciation and love for his instrument and who also knows how to wield its sounds to connect with his listeners.

Yanagitani displayed a striking ability to coax out of the ballroom’s Steinway grand an exquisite singing tone in the wistful melodies of Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52. His impressive array of touches yielded colorful and balanced orchestral timbres throughout his performance, especially in Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38.

Crafting each piece to unfold as an emotive story, Yanagitani demonstrated his genius as a musical narrator. One could easily picture a ballet being danced to the sweetly stilted melodies of his Ballade No. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47.

Yanagitani began his recital with a 10-minute modern piece called “Butterflies and Bobcats,” composed by compatriot David I. McIntyre. It sounded like a meld of music styled after Copland, Gershwin and Messiaen, and the pianist concocted a sensible musical arc that tied it all together.

Pianist Ryo Yanagitani. (Courtesy of Ryo Yanagitani)

Jean is a freelance writer.