Nobuyuki Tsujii Live at Carnegie Hall

The Nobuyuki Tsujii Live at Carnegie Hall solo piano concert was performed in November, 2011. Soon thereafter, the material on this disc came out in an Avex Classics disc sold in Japan. I bought the Japanese version. I don't know any Japanese, so there were a lot of things about the Avex Classic title that I couldn't read or report on. In the mini-review I wished that this program would be published for the Western markets. In July, 2012, this  happened. This EuroArts version has the same has the same music that Avex Classics released. The keepcase booklet is in English, with notes also in German and  French. Now I can report that the executive producer is Hiroyuki Nakashima; audio recording is by Leszek Maria Wojcik; cameras and video recording are credited to Manny Gutierrez, David Smith, and Julie Brenckle. 

The program is as follows:

1. John Musto Improvisation and Fugue

2. Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 ("Tempest")

3. Liszt Étude No. 3, "Un sospiro"

4. Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase

5. Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

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

7. Chopin Prélude No. 15 "Raindrop"

8. Nobuyuki Tsujii "Elegy for the Victims of Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011."

This disc is region free. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio. Grade: A

"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. 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.

I keep coming back to this recording, and I like it better every time I play it. Here's a pianist whose mind has never been distracted by reading notes. All he knows he got the old-fashion way: by listening to other musicians. And everything he plays he learned by heart. Funny expression that "learn by heart." Nobu's repertoire can't be very large. But everything he performs, he "plays by heart," and that's why so many people are crazy about him.

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 as you can see from the screenshots below, this was an emotional event for the pianist and others.

Nobu in front of Carnegie Hall:

Nobu bows before the concert starts. You see a camera on the front row and a robot camera on the stage. There is a round 6" hole in the rear wall through which a SD camera looks down on the pianist. But I see no camera to the left of the pianist that could be used for close-ups of the keyboard:

Nobu goes to work:

Here's a neat double exposure shot. The keyboard close up was made from a balcony camera:

Here's a keyboard shot from Nobu's left. But what camera made this? I'm guessing that a technician came on stage with a hand-held camera for this and quite a few other views. But you never see any suggestion of this from from the recording itself. Could I be missing something?

Nobu bows after his last encore, a precious short piece in updated classical style Elegy for the Victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. I predict you will soon start hearing this played soon by others:

Nobu is overcome by his emotions on stage and in the wings:

I am so happy that this wonderful recording has now come out for Western markets. Jeremy Nicholas in Gramophone (November 2012, page 67) gives this title a sympathetic review from the viewpoint of the pianist's handicap. I give this Euroarts version the grade of "A" (down from A+ because  one SD camera was used and that the recording was not made with 96kHz/24 bit sound sampling.