Family film footage shows a young Japanese boy excitedly playing a white toy piano. He is Nobuyuki Tsujii, now a major international soloist.
The story of this remarkable pianist, who has been blind from birth, is told through an audio-described documentary, commissioned by B:Music ahead of Nobuyuki’s first recital at Town Hall Birmingham.
“I can’t remember when I first heard the sound of the piano,” Nobuyuki says in the film, “I simply started playing the piano spontaneously”.
At the age of two, he began picking out tunes like Do-Re-Me, from The Sound of Music, on the toy instrument. His mother Itsuko recalls, “He started to play the songs I was singing after a couple of times,” and he enjoyed it so much that they decided to get him a real piano.
“We went to Moscow when he was 10 years old. We met the Professor of Piano at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and he told me my son will become an amazing musician,” she continues.
Fast forward to 2009. Nobu becomes the joint Gold Medal winner of the enormously prestigious Van Cliburn piano competition and, three years later, makes his Carnegie Hall debut with a film crew there to record the moment.
Nobu brings passion and excitement to every concert and his flawless performances win him friends and admirers across the world. And critics too: “One of those rare performances where player and music seem one – a definition of virtuosity,” says The Observer.
His stellar credentials include solo appearances with leading orchestras worldwide and recitals in prestigious venues throughout the world. This season he has a series of recitals – at New York’s Carnegie Hall, London and Liverpool as well as Birmingham – and concerto appearances with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Sarasota and Bilbao Orchestras as well as across Japan.
Before the pandemic, a small team from B:Music flew out to Tokyo to meet Nobu and were there to capture his triumphant return to Suntory Hall, the venue where he made his performance debut.
The fascinating film brings Nobu’s story to life through interviews, videos from the family archive, plus rehearsal and concert footage and offers an insight into how he learns the music, his perception of different venues and how he feels when he’s performing.
“You must challenge yourself,” says Itsuko, “if you truly want to achieve something, you can achieve it despite having disabilities, I believe that from the bottom of my heart.”
Nobuyuki Tsujii plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata alongside music by Liszt and Ravel, plus Kapustin’s jazzy Concert Etudes.
The 18-minute audio-described documentary, Meet Nobuyuki Tsujii, will be screened at 7pm, before the concert.
Produced by B:Music, the music charity responsible for Symphony Hall and Town Hall. Supported by The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and Dr C G Johnston