Round 4 of the Cliburn preliminaries had more goodies. A high point of the session Saturday night was an astonishing set of performances by Nobuyuki Tsujii of Japan (photo at left). He’s been blind since birth, and there was an undeniable swell of sympathy for him when he was led onto the stage of Bass Performance Hall by his mother. But it soon became obvious that, sympathy aside, he could hold his own in this high-powered environment.
Once his mother leaves the stage and he puts his hands on the keyboard to orient himself for the first chords, he becomes completely at home, playing music of great virtuosity with enormous confidence and élan. He is unerring in wide leaps, intricate runs and left-right hand coordination. His command of the keyboard seems absolute.
And he gives high-spirited, compelling performances. The Twelve Etudes of Chopin’s Opus 10 were dealt with easily and Debussy’s Images were atmospheric pictures. Liszt’s La Campanella (one of the composer’s more pleasant works) was full of winning personality.
Two other fine performers made this a pleasantly consistent session.
I was especially impressed by the showing of Zhang Zuo of China. Like Di Wu of Saturday afternoon’s round, she played a Haydn sonata (XVI:40 in G major) and made it a high-spirited romp, full of contagious good cheer. She continued with vivid performances of short pieces by Schumann, Liszt, Chopin and Stravinsky, and closed with a Liszt B minor sonata that would almost convert a skeptic.
Naomi Kudo of the United States and Japan scored with a convincing account of Carl Vine’s Sonata No. 1 (the second performance of this work in the preliminaries) and an atmospheric “Triana” from Albeniz’ Iberia. Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in B minor was put away with high competence, though it seemed just a bit bland at times to me.