Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 1. Berceuse. Etudes,
Nobuyuki Tsujii (pn); James Conlon, cond; Fort Worth SO
HARMONIA MUNDI 907547(71:19)
A gold medalist at the 13th Van Cliburn Competition, where he tied with Haochen Zhang, Nobuyuki Tsujii is heard here in his three competition performances, all from May and June 2009. Though only 20 years old, he was hardly a novice even then, having already made a solo disc in Japan as well as a recording of Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto.
Born blind in September 1988 and declared a “miracle” by Van Cliburn himself, Tsujii is a joy to listen to. Where are the signs of the nerves that should affect competitors? Tsujii is gloriously into the music from his first entrance. There’s nothing ostentatious about his playing; it seems balanced, happy, just right. The opening movement, taken spaciously but dramatically by James Conlon, is compromised somewhat by the muffled sound of the orchestra, which for some reason particularly seems to affect this movement, and especially at the loudest moments. But Tsujii plays his part as if it were written for him. There are few recordings of the second movement more touching than this one. Even in the most bravura passages of the finale, Tsujii never sounds rushed; from time to time, making the most of little shifts in tempo and mood, he even sounds witty. I hear the same poise and patience in the Berceuse, though less that is distinctive. Tsujii plays op. 10 with ready command, though not yet with the ultimate sensitivity (and flash) I hear in Pollini. Still, there are wonderful performances even here, as in the A-Minor etude. So here’s an accomplished, highly musical pianist, with nerves of steel and sensitivity to boot. This is his debut album for the West. We’ll look forward to the sessions to come.
FANFARE: Michael Ullman
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