Tuesday , October 23 2018

Tsujii plays it by ears – Japan’s blind maestro inspires

TOKYO, Oct 17, (Agencies): Blind since birth, virtuoso Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii puts his global success down to a wide range of experiences outside music — and listening to how the conductor breathes.

“I love sport, I love swimming, skiing,” the 29-year-old maestro told AFP in an interview. “The more I experience, the more positive things it brings me as a musician.”

Despite his blindness, Tsujii — or “Nobu” as he is known — has risen to become a star of the international classical music scene, playing in more than 160 concerts around the world in locations such as London’s Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York.

He has played with the Saint-Petersburg Mariinsky Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and will be giving his first major recital in France later this month. An elegy he wrote for the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan got 13 million views on YouTube.

Born in Tokyo, Tsujii’s love of music started at the age of eight months, when his mother played him a CD by Polish composer Chopin. “I wiggled my legs in time to the music,” he said.

He began tinkling on a toy piano at the age of two and real music lessons started at four. He learned to read sheet music via braille but many compositions were not accessible via this method so he learned to play by ear, from memory.

“It is good at the beginning to be faithful and precise but afterwards I tried to interpret (the music) and that is very important, difficult and deep,” he said with infectious enthusiasm.

A very rare example of a blind pianist at such a high level, Tsujii said he is inspired by the sensations provided by nature and other art forms.

“From a very young age, my mother gave me experiences outside of music. She would take me to museums and describe the drawings or paintings she liked. She would take me to a firework display and describe the colours,” he said.

Tsujii’s main musical influence is the “delicate, elegant, romantic” Chopin, whose patriotism he admires.

“He had extremely strong feelings for his country, Poland,” said Tsujii, adding that he was also drawn to Beethoven, Debussy and Ravel.

A joint-winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn gold medal, Tsujii has refused to let his disability get the better of him. While others musicians carefully watch every move of the conductor, Tsujii says he listens to the orchestra leader’s breathing to follow the rhythm.


LOS ANGELES: “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s star-studded charity song to fund relief efforts in Puerto Rico topped the Billboard digital singles chart on Monday, while Christian music rapper NF topped the Billboard 200 album chart.

Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying” debuted at No. 1 on the Digital Songs chart, which measures online single sales, with 111,000 copies sold, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

All proceeds from sales and streaming of the single, which includes vocals from Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan, will go toward relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria killed at least 43 people last month and left most of the island without power or access to clean running water.

On the Billboard 200 chart, “Perception,” the latest album from NF, sold 55,000 album units comprising album and song sales and streaming activity.

The Billboard 200 chart tallies units from album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).

Rocker Tom Petty’s “Greatest Hits” album with his band The Heartbreakers held steady at No. 2 with 47,000 copies sold two weeks after the “American Girl” singer died at age 66.

Other new entries on the Billboard 200 chart this week include rapper Lil Pump’s self-titled album at No. 3 and rocker Marilyn Manson’s “Heaven Upside Down” at No. 8.


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