I used to listen to the rendition of
Tsujii-san by CDs, DVDs, on TV and internet.
And this time, for the first time, I got a
chance to listen at his live concert.
As I wrote in the previous articles on this
blog, I’m very interested in Nobuyuki Tsujii, a Japanese pianist.
Therefore, I attended the concert with a
great expectation and a slight anxiety to get disappointed.
As was pointed out on an article somewhere, there were many ladies of middle
It made me more anxious.
That concern proved unfounded and what’s
more, I experienced a wonderful music which is far different from that on CDs
After this concert, sadly, I felt the sound
of CDs as something unsatisfied.
It is beautiful and well-organized, but
just like miniature garden and less interactive with audience.
That is how much the absolutely stunning
power of his rendition overwhelmed me.
First of all, he had achieved torrential
After the Chopin and Cliburn competition,
he had stepped up his rendition power further.
I felt some pieces to be too fast.
But I think it is acceptable for his age.
It will be the next highlights how he
settles down in his 40s and 50s.
Visually, his hands worked fast, of course,
and his head moved around a lot, as everyone knows.
But the black part of his clothes, that was
from his shoulder to feet and elbows, was very stable.
It moved less but was not rigid.
It seemed relaxed, natural, and capable to
handle anything on the keys precisely.
His posture reminded me of a legendary
pianist, Lazar Berman, whom I saw at NHK Hall.
The manner of music and a quality of sounds
are quite different each other.
But both had a slight stoop and could play
stiff pieces effortlessly.
Their postures were visually very similar.
The first half of the program was Debussy
and the last was Chopin.
I’m not familiar with the pieces of the
first half and too familiar with those of the last.
I was anxious about whether they could be
But by the first piece, he drew me into his
I was afraid that blind pianists tended to
play with small volume and less contrast.
But such concern turned out to be
His vibrant touch generated ringing sounds
throughout the hall.
During the first piece, several audiences
were coughing gallingly.
But in the next pieces, insidiously, they fall
All of the audiences seemed to concentrate
into his music.
As the program progressed from Arabesque to
Bergamasque and Estampes, diverse vibrancy became richer.
I wondered what he did in the last passage
The vibrancy of glissando there was so airy-fairy
His Clair de Lune had mystical vibrancy and
was firm, far from saccharine.
Magical touch generated extremely diverse vibrancy
In L'isle joyeuse, a good stiff piece with
many trills and crossing arms, he prolonged the first trill and made a breathtaking
pause after that.
It had an air of patina and it drew us into
the mystical world of this piece.
I knew this piece had some length but he played so exhilaratingly that it ended
all too soon.
The first piece of the last half was Chopin
By this one piece, he proved that he could express the amusingness of Chopin’s music
in front of the audience.
He seemed to have self-confidence for that with his cheerful and a little mischievous nature.
In the pieces of Chopin, pianists must have
the courage to represent extemporaneity and ever-changing phrasing without
In addition, such rendering must move the
heart of the audience.
By this piece, which I had been getting
bored with and rarely had voluntary to listen to, he succeeded in both points.
I was impressed with scherzo most in the
It was so imposing and had moral tone of virtuoso.
From the start, overwhelming sound and its
quality thrilled me.
The fortissimo was so powerful that it
might shake the walls of the hall.
Yet, it was well-controlled and listenable.
He played this piece with brisk rhythm, various tone color, rich vibrancy, exquisite
pause and elegant nuances.
Above all, sounds were vividly sparkling.
I could understand the reason why audiences crowded to his concerts.
Those sounds cannot fit inside CDs.
I got to hope to come to his concert again.
Frankly speaking, it is a great challenge
to play Polonaise Fantaisie in 20s.
This is one of my best pieces written by
What image did he have when he was playing
this piece which was full of caprice, somber and textured?
I hope he will continue this challenge over
40s and 50s.
Heroic Polonaise divides my opinion whether
I like the pianist or no.
This piece reveals the manner of rhythm of
I came to like his Heroic Polonaise since I
listened to his debut CD.
The sound of the octaves in the middle part was admirable.
And furthermore, I especially impressed by
the next soft part.
I was sometimes disappointed by the technically
remarkable pianists who could not play such gradual part attractively.
I can say for sure that the pianists who are
loved and can keep popularity for a long time are ones who can play such gradual,
somber, songlike part fascinatingly which exists in almost all the pieces.
The pianist who cannot develop musical
charm in such part would be lost interest and disappear.
Tsujii-san played this part with penetrating
sound and admirable nuance.
I was persuaded that this pianist was beyond
a temporary or fashionable star.
In an encore, he played Chopin’s 'Tristesse'
and ‘Revolutionary’ etude, and of his own composition, theme from “Still we
live” and Flowers Bloom.
'Tristesse' etude was one of the reasons I
came to like him, too.
His 'Tristesse' today is not a heartbreaking
farewell but a parting with hope and another chance.
Even so, I like his manner of singing, that is, sharp rhythm, firm phrasing
and some instances that bring tears to my eyes.
Last of all, I would like to refer to the theme
from “Still we live”.
I know there exists a certain argument
about his own compositions.
I myself don't listen to his own pieces
I took it only as a lovely piece which
represents his warm thoughts in his own way.
He composed this piece thinking of the
Great East Japan Earthquake, and the hall was just where he was when the
So it might be all because he let this
piece have it all.
The piece which I have listened to several
times by CD and TV sounded significantly different to my heart.
In objective terms, the melancholy melody
by right hand deeply spread all over the hall and subtle, faint background-like
accompaniment by left hand was in perfect harmony with the melody.
I felt the the real strength of the piano as a musical instrument, too.
I thought this was a kind of music which we could
not listen to by CDs.
Unlike the sound of CD, which was not taken
by ear of the player but by microphone, the sound I met there was what came into existence by
interaction with the sound reflected to the pianist and a sense of existence of
I used to have an impression that the piece
was a kind of soft, soothing music.
But the melody rendered by him had a power
of driving through my heart uncannily and swayed me emotionally.
It has stringency enough to extend his mind
He has an exceptional ability to demonstrate
extraordinarily magical power especially when he is in front of an audience.
Mass media sometimes touts him as a “blind”
And some critics indicate his blindness as
a psychological advantage to an audience.
What I was convinced after this concert was
that it is a trifle to think “he is wonderful in spite of blindness” or “I emotionally
have a good feeling toward his childhood and growing up”.
If ever he has an advantage to be blind, it
is that he has been given many times more stringency to convey something by
music, to communicate with audience by sound, to send something invisible to
someone’s heart than any other pianist because of his blindness.
I realized we can totally enjoy this characteristic especially in his live