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2011年8月17日 (水)

天地真理46-2 Nobuyuki Tsujii Works 2000-2011

I got the new CD "Nobuyuki Tsujii Works 2000-2011".
I have all his CDs until now. But this time, I hesitated to buy it.
One reason is that I really do not like easy-listening piano music.
I do not mean I hate them, but I get bored with them soon.
Trial listening at Amazon made me suppose that it only contains such kind of pieces.

Another reason is that I watched a TV program "Takeshi's Art Beat"
which showed a recording scene of one of the piece in this CD.
And it left a big question in my mind.

But recently, I red a noteworthy essay written by Liu-san (Ms. Liu) in her website.
  "神様のカルテ ~辻井伸行 自作集 - one person's thoughts"
  https://sites.google.com/site/nobufans/nobuyuki-audios/nobuyuki-tsujii-works-2000-2011

After that, I was inspired to listen to what Tsujii-san saw in his mind's eye,
and I came to realize I may consider what Liu-san worries about, while listening to it.


I think all these pieces in the CD are impromptus which were composed in a short time
by his sensibility and musical ability, facing impressive affairs, scenes and situations,
rather than pieces which composers break their backs for.
Therefore, I do not feel like criticizing the partial resemblance, immaturity and verbosity of them.
I would rather like to think about what he felt through them,
and enjoy the scene and atmosphere which he sensed by his audition and tactile.

It seems almost without effort for him to compose them,
so I do not think that composition itself affect his performances of classical music.
Instead, I appreciate his attitude to play his own pieces in his concert.

Many years ago, Evgeny Kissin played Japanese school songs in his concert
which were arranged by Shigeaki Saegusa.
I got so favorable impression from them.
They were full of delights of piano music.

Vladimir Horowitz also played his own pieces.
Especially, it is well known that his transcriptions were very popular in those days.
His transcriptions such as "Pictures at An Exhibition", "Danse macabre" and some "Hungarian Rhapsodys" captivated audiences in his concert.
I listened to his second live in Japan in 1986.
After the concert, I remember that audiences were leaving the concert hall with gusto.
He played only Schubert's Moment Musical and Moszkowski's Etude with modification in coda for encore.
But he could attract audiences and bring humor.
So, all of the audiences could really feel that it was a wonderful night.
Classical concerts are sometimes too formal and boring.
As Horowitz said, music should be essentially pleasurable.
Of course the main program must be of a quality high enough to penetrate even the harshest critics.
But in an encore, renditions should be needed for hearty entertainment.
Tsujii-san is only a few select pianist who can do this.
His original pieces would help for impressiveness.
This scene of concert in U.S. is an excellent proof of it.
On the premise of excellent main program, if he plays his original pieces for encore,
I think it would not harm his career as a classical pianist
but significantly enhance the appeal of his concert.


I have something on my chest.
Viciously speaking, This CD is for the success of the film "Kamisama no Karute" (God's Medical Chart).
And there are some pieces involved in TV drama and TV commercial which I am doubtful about.
Except for "Kamisama no Karute", he originally composed the pieces out of personal motives.
It seems that guys in show business just utilized his existing pieces.
But close relations with television business make me feel a tinge of uneasiness.

Another skepticism came from the TV program "Takeshi's Art Beat",
where I watched the recording scene of "Morning in Cortona".
A producer and a recording director gave suggestions to Tsujii-san,
such as "more energetic here", "more rhythmical here" and "Last part of the take 1 would be changed to that of the last take".
I can understand these guys were faithful to their duties and did their bests for the piece to be accepted by the masses.
But sometimes it works negatively in musical activities.
It is quite acceptable to make such suggestions for the renditions of film soundtracks by the film director, according to the movie's situations or concepts.
But wasn't it an impromptu which expresses what Tsujii-san felt in Italy ?
So, no matter how famous or major those guys are, I hope to listen to the very feelings of Tsujii-san.
Why they put their noses into his "personal" music ?
They should quietly let him listen to and examine every his takes, and confirm that they meet his images.
I have no objection to his composing activities.
But I have no tolerance for manipulating this kind of his own works in the recording processes.

Even worse is the accompaniment for Ayumi Hamasaki, a Japanese singer,
who is a major contributor to the prosperity of Avex group.
And Tsujii-san belongs to the label "avex-CLASSICS".
Worse yet, I don't like her voice and the way of singing.
If Tsujii-san liked her song and volunteered to accompany her singing on the piano,
I would say nothing.
But I guess he was dragged to some kind of project to liven up this singer.
Worries of Liu-san have proved right.

I searched his CDs in Amazon.com.
Except for "A Surprise in Texas (2010)", there were the list of "Import".
After he won the Cliburn Competition, Hiroko Nakamura, a Japanese famous pianist, said Tsujii-san will be a superstar at least in the United States.
Actually, this movie shows that the audiences in the United States have deeply moved by his renditions.
And it was broadcasted that he succeeded in Europe, too.
But such moved audiences can only get his CDs by import.
Liner notes are only in Japanese.
     (After I wrote this essay, I knew that some foreign labels sell his CDs in Europe and U.S. at a low price.
      But I can not confirm that they are legitimate productions yet.)


For example, at Amazon.com, "Pictures at an Exhibition" costs $44.99 in the United States.
Chaikovski's Concerto is $40.54.
Volodos's CD is $10.96 (Sony Classical), and Pollini's CD is $13.34 (Deutsche Grammophon).
Fans outside Japan must buy his CD at an unreasonably high price.
And DVDs imported from Japan can not be seen in the United States by the difference in region codes (regional lockout).
If people in the United States try to buy "Nobuyuki Tsujii Works 2000-2011" (3000 yen) directly from Amazon.co.jp,
it costs $64.94 with delivery costs ! (1$=77yen)
How does avex-CLASSICS take full account of fans' benefits outside Japan?
It is quite easy to attach the translated liner notes.
There must be some ways to deliver movies to the market worldwide in place of DVDs.
The privilege for the winner of the Cliburn Competition that grants concerts worldwide will soon expire (in three years).
After that, can avex-CLASSICS provide him chances to have concerts outside Japan?
(This is revised in my next article.)


There exists an opinion in the review of Amazon that Tsujii-san might be at his best when he creates music.
I appreciate his sensibility to nature, faculty to express in music and sincerity to reveal them without any pretense.
He himself does not limit his preferences and activities only to classical music.
He is just hoping to make his living in piano playing.
He enjoys and performs today's popular music, popular ballads "Enka" and Jazz.
I think it is favorable.
It is needless to shut him away only in classical music.

But from the two following aspects, I recommend for him to put special emphasis on classical piano playing,
and devote heart and soul to it.

Firstly, I think that the value of Tsujii-san as a classical pianist is much higher than Japanese people would generally expect.
He will succeed Horowitz or Richter in my thought, and definitely will rank with Lipatti.
He possesses deserved musical sense and technique which really moves audiences.

Remember that the records of these great pianists are still loved throughout the twentieth century and into the next, in spite of their poor sound quality.
If Tsujii-san devotes himself entirely to renditions, and they are recorded and distributed worldwide,
he surely becomes similar.
I eager to listen to his renditions of other various pieces.
And I wish he will hand down as many definitive CDs as possible.
They will be loved over the century, become cultural legacy, and be his living proof.
Based on the value, It cannot be disputed what he should  give priority to.
Does avex-CLASSICS have a strong spirit to make his historical album ?

Secondly, I think it is risky to be deeply involved in the show business or the television business.
I hope he takes advantage of the TV industry.
Of course the worst is to be obscure or struggling.
But he has become famous enough.
If he were involved in the show business deeper, he would shorten his life as a pianist.
Needless to say, TV industry cash in on him with his blindness, his fame as a competition winner,
his naive, innocent and unvarnished spirit, and his entertaining ability to make music easily.
If they considered him to be less superior as a classical pianist, or if they got bored with his blindness and his beloved personality, they would draw away from him.
Besides, he would be given a harsh lesson from gossip writers just like the evening of star's glory.
Fortunately, he would not read such jenky magazine or revilement on the net by himself.
I don't mean he should not appear on TV.
He should have a controlled relationship with TV industry.
It is not worth the highest priority.
This was proven by Mari Amachi's experiences who is a heroine in this site.
If you saw each miserable end of popular television stars, who especially had naive, innocent, unvarnished spirits, it would be clear how Tsujii-san should wisely do.


My requests are as follows.
His outputs should be distributed worldwide more conveniently and at a lower price.
It follows that he should be given tough but righteous reviews and comments from outside Japan.
They will lead his career to the right way.
His renditions at the Cliburn Competition were so marvelous that the CDs are worth historical album.
But honestly, some pieces are charms me, but I feel there is no definitive CD in avex-CLASSICS label.
I expect that some renditions in the live concerts after the competition could be definitive.
One is the rendition of Rachmaninoff's concerto No.2 with Tatsuya Shimono = Yomiuri Nippon s.o. on Dec.3.2009.
It had more harmonious sounds and more natural favorable nuances in tense tempo than those of Richter = Wislocki(1959), which I recognize as a definitive one.
Richter transcend Tsujii in massive feeling, exciting rhythm and seriousness,
but totally, I think this rendition is the best performance for this piece that I eager to listen repeatedly.
Believe his potential and temperament, and record his live performances,
expecting his sublime, once-in-forever renditions.
As to his original works, they should be recorded soon after they are composed to listen to his original impressions and enthusiasm.
avex-CLASSICS should make suitable efforts for him as an emerging label.


In November, Tsujii-san will make his Carnegie Hall debut.
Carnegie Hall has special importance for classical pianists.
I wonder if he prepare for that earnestly as he did for the Cliburn Competition.
I wonder if it will be recorded and distributed worldwide, and he will be subjected to serious comments and reviews for better or worse.
I wonder if he can feel the dignity of the Classical Hall of Fame,
and find barriers that are worth overcoming.
I would like to follow his activities.


At the end, I may as well remark my impressions on this CD.
I appreciate "Angel Wings Rockefeller", "River Seine Rondo" and "Whisper of the River" as compositions which have their maturity and originality.
Meanwhile, the melodies in "House of Wind" still stick in my mind, which I have heard somewhere.
Phrases in the beginning and ending are impressive to express two different types of "Wind".
Fragments of multiple melodies remind me of some scenes of Chopin's happy life in the "House of Wind",
which come and go like a fairy tale or a revolving lantern.
They have magical connotations.
"Gods Medical Chart" – letter - makes me feel a good skill of storytelling which let me glimpse the main theme subtly and occasionally.
And the sound of the piano is so beautiful.
Totally, it seems that they are easy listening or healing music,
but his works have not only harmonious sounds and chords but also fantastic descriptions of nature and narrative eloquence.
When I listen to "Homage to Chopin" and the theme from "Still We Live",
I can not help but realizing his strong will to convey what he see in his mind's eye, or what he feels at the bottom of his heart.
They seem like easy listening but I think it includes something never "easy".



Postscript: A kind reader sent me an article about Tsujii-san in a local newspaper.
There, Tsujii-san expresses enthusiasm for his Carnegie Hall debut and says that he would like to penetrate the appreciative audiences overwhelmingly.
He is planning to perform his original piece which he expects to be a one-up degree of perfection as a classical music.
(Shinano Mainichi Shinbun 20/8/11)

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Shin-san: It is so kind of you to take the time to translate this fine piece in such excellent English! Thanks to this article I have come to understand
some of the insights in your very intelligent article that I had
previously missed.
For example, I did not grasp your point about people in Japan underestimating Tsujii-san's value as a classical pianist. I cannot agree with you more. Based on web postings from Japan, I had come to the same conclusion independently.
Another great point that you made is that Tsujii-san performs best when he performs live in front of an enthusiastic audience. To me, this is illustrated by the great success of his Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 performed at the Cliburn Competition. Avex Classics does not seem to realize that and the fact that they had him and Conductor Yutaka Sado record Tchaikovsky's Concert No 1 in a studio (for a CD issued in February 2011) the day after a successful live performance in England is an indication of this. I wish Avex would record and possibly publish his upcoming Mozart performances this September in Japan, but I think that's wistful thinking.
There are other excellent points that you made that I have now come to understand. I will address them on a separate posting as this one is already running too long.

(CONTINUED) I applaud your point about the risk of being too closely aligned with the TV industry. Just yesterday 8/25, Tsujii-san appeared on the morning show 「とくダネ!」on Fuji TV as part of the promotional push for the movie "God's Medical Chart". He was a great success, judging from the numerous postings on the web - at one point after the show he reached No. 2 on Japan's googleTrend. Although I myself never failed to be charmed by his appearances on Japan TV (which I watch in the U.S. through Keyhole TV and/or videos provided by Nobu fans in Japan), he is in danger of becoming what Americans call "overexposed" in the media -- becoming too familiar to the public, and as you wrote so eloquently, he needs to be careful with that.

I like your insightful and positive outlook on Tsujii-san's compositions. I agree that he has true talent as a composer and, in these day when classical music is a hard sell, I think it is wise for Tsujii-san to develop that talent. However, I am not sure if performing his own composition at the Carnegie Hall is a wise choice at this point. I hope I am wrong, but New York music critics would not likely take kindly to that.

Finally, about the distribution of Tsujii-san's works overseas: It seems that efforts have been made so that SOME of his albums are now available in Europe and my country (U.S.), at a reasonable price and presumably with accompanying liner notes in English/German. HOWEVER, this is not the same as being associated with one internationally known prestigious record label such as Deutsche Grammophon, decca or EMI. I am not a lover of these big record labels, seeing as how they dominate the classical music market, so I applaud a new, distributed approach taken to market Tsujii-san's works outside of Japan. But I do worry about whether this harms Tsujii-san's opportunities to perform overseas at prestigious venues, which are dominated by artists of those big labels.

My understanding is that Avex is a music company that specializes in the J-pop genre of music in Japan, and Tsujii-san is possibly the biggest success of its small classical music branch. I hope that their relationship will continue to be successful, not just in Japan but, for the sake of people oversea like myself who admire Tsujii-san, world-wide.

Thanks again for a great article. I am happy to know that Tsujii-san has caring and thoughtful fans like you in his own country.

Liu-san,

Thank you for your hearty and pertinent comments.
I sent mails to three affiliates.
Only avex-CLASSICS responded that they will report my opinions to their departments concerned.

I don't know the trend of the critics in the United States.
But even Horowitz used to be subjected to severe comments by the critics in New York City.
He sometimes got depressed for that.
But historical facts tell us that the point is how he would be accepted by the audiences and how his CDs or DVDs would be popular.

The scene of the concert in Texas which you introduced me let me know how moved audiences in the U.S. were.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTv1xHNOIeA)
Building up such touching performances would make him the real deal.
I can not attend his Carnegie Hall debut in November,
so I am looking forward to reading your honest and sincere impressions of it on your website.

Shin-san:

Thank you for sending inquires about the overseas marketing of Tsujii-san's works. I am glad that you heard from Avex and I hope they pay attention to your astute comments.

I have attended four concerts of Tsujii-san, both in the U.S. and in England. He "brought the house down" every time, just like he did as shown in that youTube video that you mentioned. This fall, I plan to attend two of his performances in California in October, and of course the Carnegie Hall recital in November. As I have done in the past, I will file frequent reports on my site https://sites.google.com/site/nobufans/ throughout his fall tour.

Tsujii-san works very hard while he performs overseas. It is very trying to travel by plane from city to city as he must on these tours. I have nothing but admiration for Tsujii-san, both for his incomparable music and his indomitable spirit.

I welcome the visit of you and your readers to my site this fall to see for yourself how it is when Tsujii-san brings himself to the rest of the world. In addition to performing in the U.S., he will make a stop in Rio de Janeiro of Brazil in October.

Meanwhile, I hope Japan will continue to cherish Tsujii-san and support his endeavors.

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