It took a while, but Indianapolis at least once got to hear, in person, master cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi on April 27 before his final season as an IU Music School faculty member — a position he’s held since 1988. The celebrated Japanese artist joined his fellow countryman, violinist Hidetaro Suzuki, and Suzuki’s pianist wife, Cuban-born Zeyda Ruga Suzuki, for an evening of gorgeous string playing, capping in splendid fashion this season’s International Violin Competition of Indianapolis-sponsored Suzuki and Friends chamber series. Of course, I’m counting the piano as a stringed instrument and Mrs. Suzuki as one of its champions.
Master cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi will return to his native Japan after completing the 2004-’05 season as an IU faculty member.
With a reputation preceding him, Tsutsumi helped attract a sizable complement of local string players to the Indiana History Center Theater, and I suspect no one attending was disappointed. Mrs. Suzuki and Tsutsumi’s performance of Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915) is simply the best I’ve ever heard. Tsutsumi is one of those rare players of any instrument in the violin family who strikes an exact balance between tonal richness and control. In these days when virtuosity and evolving musicality appear out of the woodwork in these players, there remain few who can actually make a beautiful, “perfect” sound. Nowhere was Tsutsumi’s ability to do this more evident than in the opening Prologue of the Debussy. Moreover, Mrs. Suzuki’s exquisitely shaped and layered pianism, coupled with Tsutsumi’s solo line, enabled listening to all three movements for “sound” equally rewarding as savoring the other performance elements. The Suzukis and their “friend” ended the program with the fascinating-but-seldom-heard Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50. A lengthy, ambitious work in two sections, the second an extended set of variations, the two Suzukis and Tsutsumi made all the right inflections throughout the variations, especially the “music box” one with Mrs. Suzuki providing a high-register tinkle while her partners drone on sustained notes. Then there’s a well-wrought fugue, a sad variation with the strings muted, a Chopin-like waltz … they go on and on, with Tchaikovsky again confirming his maturity and our players realizing Tchaikovsky. The threesome began the evening with Beethoven’s most beautiful piano trio — the “Geister” in D, Op. 70 No. 1. Taking a moderate tempo in the fast outer movements, they fully realized the composer’s lyric glow ingeniously infused throughout all that energy, while creating an ominous, specter-like effect in the mysterious “ghost” movement.