Butler Faculty Composer Showcase


4 stars –

Indiana History Center; April 18.

Starting last Sunday

and going backwards, we had ten days during which four top-tier pianists

visited Indy. In many ways this gathering was not only capped but topped in

Sunday's American Pianists Association Grand Encounters series, featuring the

barely 20-year-old, Japanese, 2009 Van Cliburn Competition gold medalist,

Nobuyuki Tsujii—a concert the sold-out IHC's Basile Theater audience will

long remember. Tsujii has been blind from birth, forcing me as a critic to

decide whether to make allowances for what most would consider an impossible

handicap. Perhaps because of being sightless, Tsujii plays differently from any

other pianist of his caliber. His program — an interesting potpourri of

Chopin, Schumann and Liszt, with the second half reserved for Mussorgsky's

complete Pictures at an Exhibition

brought out very ample pedaling, more than most keyboard artists can execute

without smearing those respective passages. But for two Chopin Nocturnes,

Schumann's Papillons

("Butterflies"), Liszt's "Un sospiro" from Three Concert Etudes and his paraphrase of tunes from Verdi's opera Rigoletto, Tsujii made his pedal sing while his rapid

figures all shone through. The young pianist, in jumping chords, always landed

squarely on the right ones, needing — and possessing — an

astounding reflex sense of distance. Not being able to see his keys, Tsujii's

head meandered about at all angles in front of him, reportedly distracting some

patrons. It is regrettable to report that this young savant faltered just a bit

in the Mussorgsky, wherein his tempos were often rushed and his overpedaling

caught up with him, causing him to make slips he did not demonstrate in the

first half. But when I find myself making allowances, that afternoon was simply



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