Nobu in Berlin, May 15 2017
September 13, 1988|
Nobuyuki Tsujii (辻井 伸行)| Tsujii Nobuyuki | Nobu Tsujii (born September 13, 1988) is a Japanese pianist and composer.
Early life and education
Nobuyuki Tsujii was born blind due to microphthalmia and with a great talent for music.
He exhibited an exceptional prowess for music at an early age. At the age of two, he began to play "Do Re Mi" on a toy piano after hearing his mother hum the tune. He began his formal piano study at the age of four. In 1995, at age seven, Tsujii won the first prize at the All Japan Music of Blind Students by the Tokyo Helen Keller Association. In 1998, at age ten, he debuted with the Century Orchestra, Osaka.
He gave his first piano recital in the small hall of Tokyo's Suntory Hall at age 12. Subsequently, he made his overseas debut with performances in the United States, France, and Russia. In October 2005, he reached the semifinal and received the Critics’ Award at the 15th International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition held in Warsaw, Poland.
Tsujii competed in the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and tied for the gold medal with Haochen Zhang. He was also awarded the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the best performance of a new work. He played all twelve of Frédéric Chopin's Op. 10 Études as part of his performance in the preliminaries.
In addition to being a pianist, Tsujii is a composer. At age 12, he performed his own composition "Street Corner of Vienna". He has since released numerous albums of his own compositions. He is also a film music composer, and the 2011 recipient of the Japan Film Critics Award for Film Music Artist.
On November 10, 2011, Tsujii made a debut recital in the main hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium) at Carnegie Hall in New York, as part of the Keyboard Virtuosos II series. Tsujii debuted at the BBC Proms on July 16, 2013 with a performance with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Juanjo Mena.
Tsujii is featured in a 2013 English textbook for high schools in Japan.
A 2014 film Touching the Sound, also by Peter Rosen, documents Tsujii's life from birth to his 2011 Carnegie Hall debut, including footage of his visit to the region in Japan that suffered the devastating aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
Tsujii can be seen on numerous YouTube videos. "Pianist in tears!!!. Most moving piano performance" (published 2015) has had well over 19 million views. Another video, "Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 Nobuyuki Tsujii blind pianist BBC proms" (published 2013), has had over 7 million views.
2009 Van Cliburn Competition Juror Richard Dyer, a chief music critic for The Boston Globe, said, "Very seldom do I close my notebook and just give myself over to it, and he made that necessary. I didn't want to be interrupted in what I was hearing."
2009 Van Cliburn Competition Juror Michel Béroff, an award winning internationally known pianist, told the Japanese monthly piano magazine Chopin, "The special thing about his performance is his sound. It has depth, color and contrast, the genuine music."
In the documentary "A Surprise in Texas", Menahem Pressler, Cliburn juror and an eminent pianist, says: "I have the utmost admiration for (Nobuyuji Tsujii). God has taken his eyes, but given him the physical endowment and mental endowment to encompass the greatest works of piano. For him to play the Chopin concerto with such sweetness, gentleness and sincerity -- it's deeply touching. I had to keep from crying when I left the room."
Scott Cantrell in his review of the 2009 Van Cliburn competition for The Dallas Morning News wrote that "It's almost beyond imagining that he has learned scores as formidable as Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata by ear…Through all three rounds, he played with unfailing assurance, and his unforced, utterly natural Chopin E-Minor Piano Concerto was an oasis of loveliness."
John Giordano, music director and conductor of Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra who was jury chairman for the Cliburn competition, said in 2010, "He’s amazing. We closed our eyes and it’s so phenomenal that it’s hard to withhold your tears. Nobu played the most difficult hour-long Beethoven piece (Hammerklavier, Sonata no. 29) flawlessly. For anyone, it’s extraordinary. But for someone blind who learns by ear, it’s mind-boggling."
In an interview after the November 2011 Carnegie Hall debut recital of Tsujii, Van Cliburn said on TV Asahi, "What a thrill to hear this brilliant, very gifted, fabulous pianist. You feel God's presence in the room when he played. His soul is so pure. His music is so wonderful, and it goes to infinity to the highest heaven."
In a 2014 review that appeared in The Daily Telegraph UK, reviewer David Fanning wrote, "...Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. This was not just supersonic in its tempos but remarkably clean, and also responsive to the fairy-tale poetry that sets off the steely aggression."
On Tsujii's debut performance with the Munich Philharmonic on November 4, 2015, the Münchner Merkur wrote (translated from German): "At first he seems a little uncertain, but as soon as he sits down at the piano, he is like a different person. The supposed handicap turns out to be his strength: The Japanese sinks into Beethoven's fifth piano concerto. The high chords of the second movement seem to float with his feather-light touch."
Upon the conclusion of a tour in Japan with Tsujii in November 2015, conductor Valery Gergiev said: "He is not only a great musician and star in Japan, he shows that the human resources are virtually limitless. He shows that there is practically nothing that a human being cannot do."
Conductor Bramwell Tovey, who performed with Tsujii and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House in May 2017, made this comment: "There are lots of pianists who find Chopin baffling. But he's found a way that almost simplifies it, without simplifying any of the technical difficulties, and I mean he makes light of the technical difficulties. He has just found a way to express all of those different emotions on the journey until in the end there's just this incredible feeling of for me, sunlight. I just love playing with him."
In 2017, on the tenth anniversary of Tsujii's career début, pianist/conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy commented: "Nobuyuki Tsujii is one of my very favourite young pianists. He possesses a rare combination of excellent pianism and genuinely expressive musicianship. It is always a great pleasure to work with him and I wish him a future of many wonderful concerts." And Japanese composer Takayuki Hattori wrote: (Translated from Japanese) "The music of Nobuyuki Tsujii is guileless. There is no excessive decoration. He plays the piano with a minimum amount of flourish as required by God. He is one of a few in existence qualified to play the works dedicated to the God of Music by composers. He inspires courage to live and engenders food for thought. It is a pleasure to be alive in the same era as this rare pianist." 
Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, who teamed with Tsujii for the ending theme music of a 2018 film 羊と鋼の森("The Forest of Sheep and Steel"), commented: (translated from Japanese) "Mr. Tsujii is a really wonderful pianist, especially the sense of rhythm is amazing. A neat rhythm without useless things." 
Tsujii learns new musical works strictly by ear.
A 2009 Time article explains: "Certainly, being blind hasn't made it easy. Tsujii can use Braille music scores to learn new pieces, but this kind of translation is usually done by volunteers. Because demand is so low, the variety of scores available does not meet the needs of a professional performer, so Tsujii has devised his own method. A team of pianists records scores along with specific codes and instructions written by composers, which Tsujii listens to and practices until he learns and perfects each piece.".
Tsujii said in a 2011 interview, "I learn pieces by listening, but it doesn't mean I'm copying CDs or another person's interpretation. I ask my assistants to make a special cassette tape for me. They split the piece into small sections, such as several bars, and record it (one hand at a time). I call these tapes 'music sheets for ears.' It takes me a few days to complete a short piece, but it takes one month to complete a big sonata or concerto."
In 2017, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Monique Schafter posed this question to Tsujii: "How do you stay in time when you can't see the conductor?" The pianist replied: " By listening to the conductor's breath and also sensing what's happening around me." Conductor Bramwell Tovey commented: "He must have very acute hearing, I'm sure." 
Since his triumph at the Cliburn Competition, Tsujii has gained prominence in classical piano music, especially in his native Japan. His Cliburn CDs, as well as other CDs recorded before 2009, are now widely available. His official Van Cliburn disc (HMU 907505) sold well over 100,000 copies in one year.
Following is a list of his CDs and DVDs, most recent first:
- Grieg Piano Concerto, Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody CD . Released by Avex Classics on May 9 , 2018.
- Beethoven Pathetique, Moonlight, Appassionata CD . Released by Avex Classics on January 31, 2018.
- début 10 years CD . Released by Avex Classics on November 8, 2017.
- Chopin:Etude&Ballad CD . Released by Avex Classics on November 23, 2016.
- Liszt Sonata in B minor & Ravel Gaspard de la nuit Nobuyuki Tsujii CD . Released by Avex Classics on July 20, 2016.
- Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 & 3 Nobuyuki Tsujii CD . Released by Avex Classics on October 21, 2015.
- Impressions Nobuyuki Tsujii CD . Released by Avex Classics on July 22, 2015.
- Nobuyuki Tsujii Works Piano with Orchestra (Maestro! ~ Nobuyuki Tsujii own compositions with orchestra) CD . Released by Avex Classics on January 28, 2015.
- Emperor & Coronation --Nobuyuki Tsujii & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra CD. Released by Avex Classics on January 21, 2015.
- Nobuyuki Tsujii plays Liszt (La Campanella -Virtuoso Liszt! : Nobuyuki Tsujii) CD. Released by Avex Classics on September 24, 2014.
- Touching the Sound: The Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii DVD/Blu-ray. Released by EuroArts Music in July 2014.
- 月の光～辻井伸行 plays ドビュッシー (Clair de Lune - Nobuyuki Tsujii plays Debussy) CD. Released by Avex Classics on September 11, 2013.
- Nobuyuki Tsujii at White Nights DVD/Blu-ray. Released by EuroArts Music in January 2013.
- ジェニーへのオマージュ 自作集CD+自作LIVE DVD 'Tribute to Jeanie' self-composition CD and DVD. Released by Avex Classics on December, 2012.
- 辻井伸行 plays 花は咲く Nobuyuki Tsujii plays 'Flowers Bloom'. Released by Avex Classics on October 17, 2012.
- 辻井伸行 モーツァルト・アルバム Nobuyuki Tsujii - Mozart Album. Released by Avex Classics on September 5, 2012.
- はやぶさ 遥かなる帰還 オリジナル・サウンドトラック Nobuyuki Tsujii - Hayabusa Harukanaru Kikan Original Soundtrack, original film music composed by Nobuyuki Tsujii. Released by Avex Classics on February 8, 2012.
- 辻井伸行 カーネギーホール・デビューLIVE Nobuyuki Tsujii Carnegie Hall Debut Live!. Released by Avex Classics on December 28, 2011.
- それでも、生きてゆく オリジナル・サウンドトラック('Still We Live'Original Sound Track), released by Avex Classics in August 2011
- 神様のカルテ~辻井伸行自作集 Nobuyuki Tsujii Works, 2000-2011, a collection of Tsujii's own compositions, released by Avex Classics in July 2011
- Nobuyuki Tsujii - Yutaka Sado - BBC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1, released by Avex Classics in February 2011
- Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 , with Yutaka Sado and the BBC Philharmonic, released by Avex Classics in February 2011.
- My Favorite Chopin Nobuyuki Tsujii, released by Avex Classics in March 2010.
- Chopin: Piano Works, with two discs, 10 tracks each; recorded at the Chopin Piano Competition in 2005, and re-released by Victor Japan in September 2009.
- Pictures at an Exhibition Nobuyuki Tsujii, released September 15, 2010 by Avex Classics
- Frédéric Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1; Etudes Op. 10, released by harmonia mundi in 2010
- Nobuyuki Tsujii Cliburn 2009 Preliminary Round Recital, released by harmonia mundi in 2009; also available as a DVD
- Nobuyuki Tsujii Cliburn Semifinal Round Recital, released by harmonia mundi in 2009; also available as a DVD
- Nobuyuki Tsujii Cliburn Competition Final Round Recital, released by harmonia mundi in 2009; also available as a DVD
- Nobuyuki Tsujii, Gold Medalist, 2009 - Winners CD, released by harmonia mundi in 2009
- Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto #2, released by Avex Trax Japan in 2008, with conductor Yutaka Sado and the Deutsches Symphonie
- Début Nobuyuki Tsujii, Avex Entertainment label, 2007: contains one disc of recitals of works of Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel; and a second disc with five original compositions of Tsujii.
Nobuyuki Tsujii has performed successfully with numerous orchestras under the baton of many conductors, both in Japan and abroad. Conductors that he performed with in recent years include Vladimir Ashkenazy (Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), Valery Gergiev (Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Orchestra Teatro alla Scala and Munich Philharmonic), Vasily Petrenko (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic), Michael Sanderling (Dresden Philharmonic), Yutaka Sado (Tonkünstler Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), James Conlon (Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra), Randall Craig Fleischer( Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Youngstown Symphony Orchestra), John Giordano (Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra), Thierry Fischer (Swiss Italian Orchestra), Vladimir Spivakov (Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra), Jean-Marie Zeitouni ( Edmonton Symphony Orchestra), Paolo Carignani (Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra), Mitiyoshi Inoue(Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa), Yuzo Toyama (NHK Symphony Orchestra ), Eliahu Inbal (Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra), Michael Collins (Sinfonieorchester Basel), Lukasz Borowicz (Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra), Kazuyoshi Akiyama (Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra), Tatsuya Shimono (Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra), Alexander Mickelthwate (Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra), Stilian Kirov (substituting for Ludovic Morlot) (Seattle Symphony Orchestra), Miguel Harth-Bedoya (Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra), Juanjo Mena (BBC Philharmonic), Arild Remmereit (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Andriy Yurkevych (Munich Symphony Orchestra), Scott Speck (Mobile Symphony Orchestra), Kaspar Zehnder (Sinfonieorchester Basel), Pascal Rophé (substituting for Marc Minkowski) (Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa), Yuko Tanaka (Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa), Michiyoshi Inoue (Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa), Ronald Feldman (Longwood Symphony Orchestra), Sylvain Cambreling (Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra), Christopher Warren-Green(Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra), Darrell Ang (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic), Marko Letonja (Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg), Neil Thomson(Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra), Bramwell Tovey(Sydney Symphony Orchestra), Vladimir Jurowski (London Philharmonic Orchestra), Tetsuji Honna (Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra), and Kosuke Tsunoda (Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra). Tsujii has also performed with the Takács Quartet, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Piano concertos that Nobuyuki Tsujii has performed include Piano Concerto No. 1 (Beethoven), Piano Concerto No. 3 (Beethoven), Piano Concerto No. 5 (Beethoven), Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky), Piano Concerto No. 3 (Prokofiev), Piano Concerto (Grieg), Piano Concerto No. 2 (Rachmaninoff), Piano Concerto No. 3 (Rachmaninoff), Piano Concerto No. 20 (Mozart), Piano Concerto No. 21 (Mozart), Piano Concerto No. 26 (Mozart), Piano Concerto No. 27 (Mozart), Piano Concerto No. 1 (Chopin), Piano Concerto No. 2 (Chopin), and Piano Concerto (Ravel). He has also performed Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
In addition to being a pianist, Nobuyuki Tsujii is a composer. At age 12, he performed his own composition "Street Corner of Vienna." In 2010-2011, he composed the theme music for a Japanese film '神様のカルテ (In His Chart)' as well as for a Japanese TV drama 'それでも、生きてゆく (Still We Live On)'. In June 2011, Japanese figure skating champion Midori Ito performed in a world event (Master Elite Oberstdorf 2011) to the music of "Whisper of the River," composed by Tsujii when he was in high school to express his love for his father after the two took a walk on the Kanda River in Tokyo. Tsujii was the music director and composed the theme music for the Japanese film はやぶさ 遥かなる帰還 The Return of the Hayabusa" released in February 2012. In 2014, he composed the ending theme for the film 'マエストロ(Maestro!)'. Tsujii created and performed the background music for a series of three animation of Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls produced by Studio Ghibli for Marubeni Corporation in 2016.
Nobuyuki Tsujii was featured in an original short film "Lights of Japan" shown at the World Economics Summit in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2012. In the film, he performed on a grand piano restored from the ravage of the March 2011 tsunami that devastated Eastern Japan. Additionally, he performed in numerous charity concerts on behalf of Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims, including a UNESCO concert held in Paris on March 11, 2012. Part of the proceeds from his 2012 'Flowers Bloom' CD goes towards Japan's earthquake reconstruction effort. In addition to his earthquake relief effort, Tsujii frequently performs benefit concerts, such as for children's hospitals, the Japanese Red Cross and the disabled. In the summer of 2012, Nobuyuki Tsujii contributed to a one-million rubles donation from the proceeds of an acclaimed concert, in which he performed on July 8 with conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, to the victims of a flood in Kuban that occurred the night before. On October 25, 2015, Nobuyuki Tsujii performed with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra in Boston, in partnership with the Japan Society of Boston and the Berklee College of Music, benefiting the Boston Higashi School and the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta. On the next day, Tsujii paid a special visit to the Higashi School and "inspired children and staff alike."
- Century Orchestra Osaka website (in Japanese)
- "Artist Profile: Nobuyuki Tsujii" - Avex Classics (classical record company) website
- interview,Chugoku Shimbun, evening edition, April 11, 2011
- "A Surprise in Texas: The Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition", PBS, premiered Wednesday, September 1, 2010.
- "辻井 伸行 Official Web Site ++ Nobu Piano. ++". www.nobupiano1988.com. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Page Not Found". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "A Pianist’s Composition Rounds Off Debut Recital", New York Times Music Review, November 13, 2011
- "Proms Archive > 2013; Prom 6: David Matthews, Rachmaninov & Nielsen". BBC. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "School textbooks feature 'hip' topics", The Yomiuri Shimbun, Mar. 29, 2012
- Granberry, Michael,"Van Cliburn 2009: Piano is a passion for blind competitor", The Dallas Morning News, Tuesday May 26, 2009,
- For the full article, see: Granberry, Michael,, The Dallas Morning News, Tuesday May 26, 2009,
- NHK video(NO.2761),"心癒やす至福"の音色 ～ピアニスト・辻井伸行～", NHK(Japan Broadcasting Corporation), July 2, 2009,
- Chopin magazine website (in Japanese)
- Oda, Yuki, "'Nobu' Fever: Japan Falls for a Blind Piano Prodigy", Time magazine, Wednesday, November 18, 2009
- Cantrell, Scott, in the Dallas Morning News, June 2009
- Also quoted in the "Van Cliburn Foundation official Gold Medal Winner biography: Nobuyuki Tsujii"
- Baird, Mike,"Japan's piano superstar will play with Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra", Corpus Christi Caller Times, Thursday October 7, 2010
- BS-Asahi, 『奇跡のピアニスト 辻井伸行23歳 新たなる挑戦(仮)』(a Japanese TV documentary on the Carnegie Hall debut recital of Nobuyuki Tsujii), January 1, 2012
- Fanning David, "Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Petrenko, review", The Daily Telegraph, November 21, 2014
- Anita Svach, "Mit doppeltem Boden" Münchner Merkur, November 6, 2015
- "Die Münchner Philharmoniker in Japan" Bavarian Classic Radio"], December 2, 2015
- "Meet Nobuyuki Tsujii, the blind concert pianist who learns by ear" Australian Broadcasting Corporation, May 31, 2017
- "Nobuyuki Tsujii "Debut 10 years" Special Concert Brochure", November 14, 2017
- "The first collaboration of Joe Hisaishi and Nobuyuki Tsujii", March 6, 2018
- Oda, Yuki,"'Nobu' Fever: Japan Falls for a Blind Piano Prodigy",Time (magazine). Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009
- Foote, Alexander, "Blind piano virtuoso Nobuyuki Tsujii plays in Scottsdale", The Arizona Republic, April 19, 2011
- Nobuyuki Tsujii Chopin CD Product Description, amazon.com
- "Nobuyuki Tsujii Official Web Site ++ Nobu Piano. ++". www.nobupiano1988.com. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Pianist Tsujii Nobuyuki composes theme song for Sho Sakurai’s upcoming movie", MomoEdwood's Media Watch, April 15, 2011
- "Eita, Mitsushima Hikari co-star in 'Soredemo, Ikite Yuku'", TokyoGraph, May 9, 2011
- Dubko1 (12 June 2011). "Midori Ito Master Elite Oberstdorf2011". Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via YouTube.
- "【辻井伸行】挑戦し続ける鍵盤アーティスト！映画音楽、グルメにカーネギー…". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "‘Maestro!’ celebrates mysterious conductor", Japan Times, February 2, 2015
- "Studio Ghibli Continues Animation of Chōjū Giga Scrolls With 3rd Ad", Rafael Antonio Pineda, Anime News Network, November 18, 2016
- "The original short film 'Lights of Japan' for 'Japan Night' at Davos in 2012", Japanese Government Internet TV, February 3, 2012
- 『ダボスＪＡＰＡＮ ＮＩＧＨＴ から世界へ復興メッセージ小山薫堂氏が映像制作、各国のリーダーが集う会場で自然と拍手』, Japan Economics News, January 27, 2012
- "Disaster anniversary concert in Paris", House of Japan, March 12, 2012
- "辻井伸行： 被災地の中学合唱団と共演「素晴らしい経験できた」(Nobuyuki Tsujii: Playing with junior high school choir in the disaster area was a great experience)", 毎日新聞 (Mainichi News), August 17, 2012
- "ピアニスト辻井さん、こども病院で慰問コンサート(Pianist Mr. Tsujii , Children's Hospital charity concert)", 長野県内ニュース (Nagano News), October 16, 2012
- Japan Red Cross News, December 2012, Vol.871
- Japan Red Cross 50th Blood Donation Charity New Year Concert 2015, Sony Foundation, September 6, 2014
- "第25回ウェルフェアコンサート開催のお知らせ (The 25th Welfare Concert Announcement)", AJU (Association to Improve the Lives of People with Severe Disabilities in Aichi Prefecture), September 21, 2016
- "The Mariinsky Theatre helps victims of the flood in Kuban", Mariinsky Theatre Press Release, July 9, 2012
- "Community Conversation", Longwood Symphony Orchestra , August 22, 2016
- "Acclaimed Pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii Performs; Inspired piano music wows children and staff alike", Boston Higashi School, October 26, 2015