COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Foster & Tsujii,Liszt,Musorgsky,Musto
ALBUM TITLE: Nobuyuki Tsujii: Live at Carnegie Hall
WORKS: John Musto: Improvisation and Fugue; Beethoven: Piano Sonata no. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2; etc
PERFORMER: Nobuyuki Tsujii (piano); dir. Peter Rosen
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 2059088; Blu-ray: 2059084
‘I did it!’ says Nobuyuki Tsujii through tears. ‘There are no words to describe it.’ His emotional display is understandable: the 23-year-old Japanese pianist, blind from birth, has just finished his warmly received Carnegie Hall debut. It’s the latest highpoint in a remarkable life in which he has learned repertoire by ear or from custom-made recordings, his single-minded dedication earning him a shared gold medal at the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition. That backstage moment is the only occasion when the private person is revealed. For the rest, director Peter Rosen provides straight documentation of the December 2011 recital, with sometimes disconcertingly close camerawork. From the constant swaying of Tsujii’s head to microscopic scrutiny of his fingers, little is hidden from us.
Perhaps it’s best to listen as Tsujii plays, though drawbacks still remain. An extraordinary gift and phenomenal effort have taken Tsujii’s skills a long way, but there are higher levels of interpretation to reach. His current tone is clean but lacking in depth. He is also short of natural flow, inevitable perhaps in one who must plan his performances mathematically. Some of Tsujii’s most impressive flights come in the bluesy chords and flying counterpoint of John Musto’s Improvisation and Fugue; elsewhere, in Musorgsky, Liszt and Beethoven, stiff phrasing dominates. The encores offer encouraging glimpses of a gentler more flexible artist, with nuanced Chopin, prettified Stephen Foster, and Tsujii’s own simple piece mourning victims of last year’s Japanese earthquake.