A stunned audience at the Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 last night hailed the recital by 21-year old Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii at the Emirates Palace Auditorium as one of the most captivating piano performances ever staged in Abu Dhabi.
In a performance that spanned over two hours, the prodigy treated guests to a repertoire dominated by a selection of Chopin pieces, in honour of the ongoing celebration of the composer's bicentennial year at Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF). And as an added bonus, Tsujii followed his Chopin tribute with a selection of pieces by Schumann and Liszt.
Rather like Chopin, Nobuyuki Tsujii's talents were discovered at an early age. Winning his first competition in Japan at the age of just seven, he has gone on to garner a number of accolades, including, in October 2005, the Critics’ Award at the 15th International Frederik Chopin Piano Competition and was joint winner of the Nancy Lee and Perry R Bass Gold Medal at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 2009. He has given recitals in Forth Worth and Houston, and conducted a major recital tour of Japan. He has appeared as soloist with many of the major Japanese orchestras including Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Tokyo Symphony and Japan Philharmonic.
As an expectant hush settled over the audience at the Emirates Palace Auditorium last night, Tsujii immediately began to weave his magic, opening with a stunning take upon Chopin’s challenging Ballade Op. 23 No 1 in G minor. This sublime, noble piece is one of the composer’s best known works – and has featured in a number of film scores, including The Pianist. It is also thought to have been a favourite piece of the composer himself, a complex, physically demanding piece that showcased Tsujii's complete absorption and focus.
The pianist soared through his set, rendering each piece with the sensitivity and emotion for which he is renowned. It takes a rare talent to tackle the intricacies and emotional range of Chopin's work and at only 21, Tsujii's great mastery of the composer's genius left spectators speechless. It was evident in the most intense and profound works, Fantasie Op. 49 in F minor, followed by two Nocturnes, a genre of music indelibly associated with Chopin.
Closing the first half of the evening, Tsujii ended his journey through Chopin’s oeuvre with a special piece from later in the composer’s career – the sweeping, romantic Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60, modelled on the traditional Venetian gondola song.
In the second half of the concert, Tsujii treated listeners to a selection of pieces from two of Chopin’s contemporaries. Starting with Schumann’s carnival-inspired character pieces, Papillons Op. 2, he finished the concert to a heartfelt ovation, with three distinct pieces from Liszt, Un sospiro from ‘Three Concert Études’ S.144, Rigoletto, Concert Paraphrase for Piano S.434 and Hungarian Rhapsody in C minor No. 2.
Nobuyuki Tsujii comments:
“It was a great honour to be invited to celebrate the Chopin Bicentennial at the Abu Dhabi Festival. Chopin has been a real focus for me this year and I have recently recorded the pieces I performed in Abu Dhabi for my new CD released this month. I hope that I have contributed to the success of this wonderful festival with some great performances for the people of Abu Dhabi.”
Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance forms part of the celebration of Chopin’s bicentennial year at this year’s Abu Dhabi Festival. As part of this theme, audiences were treated to an opening gala featuring Chopin’s Piano Concert in E minor Op.11 No. 1 performed by the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by composer Krzysztof Penderecki and featuring pianist Krzysztof Jablonski. Piano virtuoso Yundi Li will provide the third concert in the series with a recital at the Emirates Palace on Thursday 1 April.
H.E. Hoda al Khamis Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival comments:
“It is a rare honour to be in the presence of someone as talented and inspirational as Nobuyuki Tsujii. His brilliant performances have won him universal acclaim – and his performance at the Abu Dhabi Festival was a virtuoso demonstration of why he is so admired.”
The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, organised by ADMAF, is held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and runs until 7 April. This year’s Festival is a feast of arts and culture with more than 80 events over three weeks, fusing world-class performances in traditional, classical and jazz music, drama, fine arts, and ballet and rich community and education programs.
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