Nobuyuki Tsujii At White Nights

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky; Rachmaninov; Tsujii; Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Nobuyuki Tsujii At White Nights
WORKS: Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; November from the Seasons, Op. 37a
PERFORMER: Noboyuki Tsujii (piano), Olga Sergeyeva (soprano), Yuri Vorobiev (bass); Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra/Valery Gergiev


It’s impossible to listen to a performance by Nobuyuki Tsujii – or to watch one, as here – without being reminded of his back-story. Born blind, he has been giving public concerts ever since his appearance at 12 in Tokyo’s Suntory Hall; his first CD consisted of live recordings made at the 13th Van Cliburn Competition, which he won. That disc suggested that although he could play the notes brilliantly, he tended to skate over the top of the keys. His next recording revealed an ability to evoke drama, and this new one – made at the White Nights festival in St Petersburg – suggests that his talents are still developing. The least impressive element is his own Elegy for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 – an anodyne song without words – but his other encores are charmingly characterised.

And the pièce de resistance is formidably good. After being led to the piano by Valery Gergiev, Tsujii gives a wave and is off, pounding out the big chords of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 with expansive force. The camera lingers revealingly on close-ups of his neat hands, showing how flat the fingers are, and how relaxed their action, and underscoring the fact that through his finely-judged rubato he exercises total authority over tempo. The cadenza has lovely delicacy, and the Andante is tenderly expressive, with the final Allegro being as fiery and big-hearted as one could wish. But the principal memory one comes away with is his engagingly child-like presence. The concert ends with a fine performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14.


Michael Church