This blu-ray (also DVD) is a live recording of a performance that took place at the 2012 "White Nights" Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Nobuyuki Tsujii ("Nobu"), who gained fame in 2009 after winning a gold medal at the International Van Cliburn Piano Competition, was invited to perform at the festival by famous Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, also the artistic director of the festival.
In the original concert program, Nobu was to appear in the first half, performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Marinsky Theatre Orchestra, leading to the Shostakovic Symphony No. 14 in the second half. On the day of the performance, July 8 2012, director Gergiev decided to switch the two halves, making Nobu's performance the climax of the concert. On the DVD, it is Nobu's part that is shown first, where, in addition to the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, Nobu performed three encore pieces (Rachmaninov's Prelude in G# minor, Tchaikovsky's "November", and Nobu's own composition -- an elegy for earthquake victims).
In a report about the concert posted on Nobu's own official web site, the pianist wrote: (translated from Japanese) "After extensive rehearsals, I was able to play more heatedly in performance. The full-house audience gave us a loud standing ovation."
Of the performance, Radio Orpheus in Russia wrote(translated from Russian):
"Nobuyuki Tsujii debuted in St. Petersburg at the festival 'White Nights'. At the beginning of the concert, Valery Gergiev carefully led Nobuyuki Tsujii past the musicians on stage to the piano bench. During the performance, the artist instantly transformed: he played smoothly and flawlessly, his soft touch, jeweler's cutting precision, the richness of timbre and virtuosic performing style speaks to this gifted young man as one of the brightest young artists of the new generation of Japanese performing school."
"Together with the Symphony Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev, Nobuyuki Tsuji was very impulsive, and at the same time, he seamlessly executed Tchaikovsky's first concerto for piano and orchestra.
The musician has grasped the subtle psychological subtexts in the music of the Russian composer; in his performance, he (Tsujii) successfully combined the drama of light and intimate lyrics."
This DVD is a "co-production of EuroArts Music International, State Academic Marinsky Theatre and Avex Classics International". With so many participants, I frankly expected an inferior product. But I was pleasantly surprised. The photography is crisp, the camera angles fluid, the editing skillful, and -- most important -- the audio is excellent. The high standard is also reflected in the liner notes, containing artistic photos and well-written narratives in English, German and French.
At the time of this writing, Nobu has just finished a mini-tour in the U.S., where he performed the Tchaikovsky concerto in Seattle and Fort Worth four times in two weeks. I was in the Benaroya Concert Hall in Seattle on January 27, 2013, when 2000+ people leaped on their feet immediately after Nobu struck the last note. His performance with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra was electrifying and held the audience spellbound.
This Blu-ray DVD is the next best thing to being in the concert hall. Thanks to the adroit camera work, we get to see some of Nobu's mesmerizing finger movements as well as his facial expressions during performance, cross cut with shots of the conducting of Gergiev (whose fingers too are a sight to behold), the instrument playing of orchestra members, and the reactions of the audience. The down side of so much cross cutting, however, is that it breaks our concentration.
Other than the concerto, the track that I looked forward to the most is the first encore -- Rachmaninov's Prelude in G# minor, Op. 32 No 12. I heard Nobu play this piece as encore at the Royal Festival Hall in London last May, and the memory of it lingered. This short piece is, to my ears, hauntingly beautiful, and it is played here by Nobu with just the right touch and sensibility.
Kudos to EuroArts Music for making this DVD available so readily all over the world, except -- ironically -- in Nobu's native Japan, perhaps for contractual reasons. To a Nobu fan who has spent a fortune ordering CDs and DVDs from Japan, this is a happy turn of event. (NOTE: As of March 2013, this disc -- released by Avex Classics -- is available in Japan.)
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