LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Liszt: Liebestraum No. 3; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
PERFORMER: Nobuyuki Tsujii (piano); German SO Berlin/Yutaka Sado
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72371
Does the awareness that this 22-year-old Japanese pianist has been blind from birth mean that somehow, in assessing his playing, allowances must be made for this? Of course not. Equally, can the fact be ignored? Of course not. Tsujii’s achievement is self-evidently remarkable in human terms alone.
The bottom line, however, is that his level of artistry in these recordings would impress in any context. Even in the more fiendish passages of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz, technical issues just don’t arise. (How does he manage those ultra-rapid right-hand leaps so accurately without being able to see? Extraordinary.) And besides this superb apparatus, he is never tempted to force the pace – a major credential in itself.
But what makes this release so outstanding is the quality of Tsujii’s interpretative response to two very demanding, and very different composers. His powerful, yet unhurried manner and full, rather dark keyboard tone together draw out the riches of Rachmaninov’s evergreen Concerto in a way that has it sounding wonderfully fresh, while a fired-up German Symphony Orchestra responds in kind. Although Liebestraum No. 3’s opening is here a touch prosaic, Tsujii then shapes the piece with a spontaneous sweep that’s authentically Lisztian.
Throughout the Mephisto Waltz and Hungarian Rhapsody, his playing is alert to every switchback of mood and pace, and vividly characterised also. Yes, he does pedal rather liberally, but there isn’t a note anywhere that can’t clearly be heard. And the startling thought is that in the years to come, he’s only going to get better. A name to watch indeed. Malcolm Hayes