These live performances from the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition feature 20-year-old Nobuyuki Tsujii, who shared the Gold Medal with Haochen Zhang. It's easy to hear what led Tsujii to victory. He possesses a terrific technique and excellent musical instincts. Hopefully his range of tonal resources and dynamic projection will expand, but the potential for greatness, long-term development, and growth clearly comes across.
Among the first six Op. 10 Chopin Etudes, Tsujii stands out in No. 1, where the sweeping arpeggios ebb and flow against a solid, cantus-firmus-like bass line, and in No. 3, which is uncommonly forthright and brisk considering how many younger pianists play it like a Gurdjieff hymn. On theRead more other hand, his lingering at phrase ends conveys a foursquare impression throughout most of No. 6.
You need nerves of steel to get through Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata unscathed (especially on the Cliburn Competition's high-pressure playing field), yet Tsujii's forward moving, flexible, and consistently engaging performance betrays not one trace of stage fright or self-consciousness. But don't expect the last word in depth, inner drama, and lyric tenderness. Similarly, Tsujii's stylishly unfettered treatment of Liszt's La Campanella falls short of the suppleness and tonal shimmer that distinguish Lisztians as antipodal as John Ogden and Earl Wild (we don't even have to mention Hofmann and Friedman).
For pianists who complain that contemporary works for their instrument don't give them enough to do, John Musto's Improvisation and Fugue spins plenty of notes, and Tsujii plays them all with no problem. Where will Tsujii go from here? I look forward to finding out.
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