May 10, 2015: Nobuyuki Tsujii



Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 3 PM


Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Nocturne in B flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1
Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 2

Consolation No. 3 in D-flat major
Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S.514

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C. minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique”
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”

Dear Friends,

This Mother’s Day, we pay tribute to three women whose contributions led to the design of Nobu’s recital programme:  Justyna Krzyzanowski Chopin (1782-1861), Maria Anna Lager Liszt (1788-1866) and Maria Magdalena Keverich van Beethoven (1746-1787). Thank you, ladies. We don’t know what we would have done without you!

The Artist

Blind since birth, Nobuyuki Tsujii was joint Gold Medal winner at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Nobu is also a composer and already has several albums to his credit. His first piece was Street Corner of Vienna, composed when he was 12, the same year as his recital debut. More recently, as a film composer, he won the 2011 Japan Film Critics Award for Film Music Artist.

In the wake of the Van Cliburn win, the phrase “Nobu Fever” was coined by Time Magazine writer Yuki Oda. Five years later, “Nobu Fever” is still alive and well, with tickets still all but impossible to get for his concerts in Japan. How a completely blind young man who stands at barely five feet tall manages to capture the hearts of many is hard to quantify. Smitten Japanese fans speak fondly of the charming personality of the pianist that complements his pure and healing music. Nobu says, “There is only music that I can do… I want to share with you the power of music played with my heart.”

As Van Cliburn remarked after Nobu’s victory in Texas, “He was absolutely miraculous. His performance had the power of a healing service. It was truly divine.”

Following Nobu’s exciting performances in Winnipeg two years ago, both the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Virtuosi Concerts together took the unusual step of immediately re-engaging him for this special weekend in 2015 featuring Beethoven – the Emperor Concerto (with WSO) and two of his most beloved piano sonatas (with VCI).

The Music

To help prepare you for Nobu’s recital, we provide links to some YouTube clips below. But first, I wanted to say just a few words about the two Beethoven sonatas:

The Pathétique was published in 1799. Beethoven’s publisher had dubbed it “Grande sonate pathétique”, suggesting pathos and suffering (not pitiful), and Beethoven liked this title. As Melvin Berger wrote: “The piece moves from the Sturm und Drang of the introduction and the febrile body of the first movement, through the consolation of the Adagio cantabile, to the search for succor in the concluding Rondo…ending on a positive note of affirmative resolution.”

The Appassionata was published in 1807 but did not receive its descriptive title until 1838 by a publisher of a four-hand version of the piece. It is perhaps the most compelling of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. In the first movement, you can even hear the famous “fate phrase” – the “knock on the door” – which marks the opening notes of his fifth symphony (duh-duh-duh-dumm). Musicologist Artur Pizzaro characterizes this work as “…his most impassioned, and his most violent musical utterance.” Speculation as to the source of this emotional turmoil stems from the dedication of the piece to Count Franz von Brunswick, for Beethoven was in love with the Count’s two sisters. One was plain but very spiritual, and the other was physically irresistible to the young composer – yet another kind of problem for this tumultuous personality to contend with. Finally, we should note that the Appassionata sonata also makes a profound and powerful musical statement. When Sviatoslav Richter performed a recital with five Beethoven sonatas, they were not in chronological order. Instead, he placed this work last on the program, insisting that the Appassionata sonata could never be followed by any other work. I think you will all  agree.

YouTube Performances

Chopin Barcarolle, played by Alicia de Larrocha

Liszt Consolation No. 3, played by Anna Ivanova

Beethoven Pathétique, played by the controversial Valentina Lisitsa. It is unlikely that we might see her soon in Winnipeg. Click if you want to join over 275,000 others who have checked out what she can do at the piano keyboard

Beethoven Appassionata, played by Murray Perahia

On Mother’s Day, when Nobu appears live in our hall and on Piano in the Sky, we will see whether you have caught Nobu Fever.

See you all at Eckhart-Gramatté Hall on Sunday, May 10th at 3 pm.