Nobuyuki Tsujii Carnegie Hall Debut

The Nobuyuki Tsujii Carnegie Hall Debut Live solo piano concert was performed on November 10, 2011. This disc came out promptly in early 2012 for the Japanese market.

The keep-case booklet is almost entirely in Japanese, and the disc plays only in Region A.  If you don't speak Japanese, you would want to get the EuroArts verision of this which is region-free. Neither the booklet nor the disc menu gives track numbers. But the tracks are numbered. If you enter the number you want on the numerical keypad and sit still, the disc will take you to the track you selected. So here are the track numbers and the pieces performed as best I have been able to sleuth them out (as a non-Japanese reader):

1. Opening

2. John Musto Improvisation and Fugue

3-5. The 3 movements of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 ("Tempest")

6. Liszt Étude No. 3, "Un sospiro"

7. Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase

8-23. Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition (There are 16 tracks here which are listed on a sub-menu to track 8.)

And now 3 encores:

24. Steven Foster "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," --- arranged by Nobu.

25. Chopin Prélude No. 15 "Raindrop"

26. The last encore is a piece by Nobu called "Elegy for the Victims of Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011." When I got this title, the Japanese text left me with no clue about the name.  Short and absorbing, the piece sounded to me like Schumann. But I thought: "If Schumann wrote this, everybody would be playing it. Although it is basically in classical style, it has an attitude that's too modern for Schumann." I tried two smart-phone apps that identify musical pieces by sampling them in the smartphone mike and comparing the sample to a database of music. No luck. So then I figured this had to be by Nobu, and that turned out to be right. 

27. End Credits

Released 2012, disc has 5.0 Dolby TrueHD sound.

For more comments about this concert and screenshots, see the EuroArts verision of this title.

"Nobu," blind from birth, is a piano prodigy who learns masterpieces by ear and also composes. He may have other challenges in addition to sightlessness. For example, his head bobs about in a kind of Brownian motion that has little apparent relationship to the music he's playing or what is happening around him. This is somewhat disconcerting until you get used to it. He got his big breakthrough in 2009 at the Cliburn Competition and has since made a number of recordings. This is his first HDVD. 

At the Cliburn Competition, Nobu was controversial. Some jury members thought he was too "special" to be put up against all the top sighted performers. Other jury folk found themselves sobbing as he played. And for sure, he is very paradigm of the instant überunderdog. (Is the U.S., underdogs always win.) So the solution was to award 2 first prizes: one for Nobu and the other for the winning sighted player.

This Carnegie debut was probably made on a modest budget. The HD picture quality is not top notch. The resolution is a tad fuzzy, one camera had trouble rendering the piano strings accurately (jaggies and the like), and there is a camera on the wall behind Nobu and facing the audience that is plain, old SD (usually anathema here). No information is given about the sound sampling or other aspects of the audio recording.  The piano doesn't sound as "real" as it does in the AIX Chamber Music Palisades recording with its 96kHz/24 bit sampling, but it does sound as good as the piano played by Volodos in his Vienna recital recorded by Sony.

The program and performance is highly enjoyable to watch. (If you just listen, you might detect that Nobu's execution is not as rock solid as that of the top sighted players.)  You also get a keen feeling for the event. The N. Y. audience was happy with Nobu, and Nobu's face at the end becomes grotesque as he strains to control his emotions. Finally, a cameraman behind stage catches tears while Nobu's companion comforts him. You can't get something like that with a CD.

So what grade should I give for this expensive disc? Well, to me the performance is good enough for an A+. But for technical weaknesses and the fact that this is Region A only, I'll reduce the grade to A.