Nobu at a New Stage - the young pianist as composer

June 19, 2011

Screen shot from the film " 'Medical Charts of God"  神様のカルテ. Nobuyuki Tsujii's name is promiently displayed as the theme music composer.

Screen shot from the YouTube video "A Morning in Cortona", an original composition that Nobu first performed as an encore in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2010.
Summer 2011 has started in earnest, and it seems light years ago when Nobuyuki Tsujii was in this country (the United States) performing Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Mozart's K330 Sonata, and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Things have not exactly been quiet -- as I had thought it would be -- since his return to Japan after his month-long spring tour  in North America (  In mid-May,  Nobu appeared in a mini-concert in Tokyo, at the U.S. Embassy, where he performed some of the pieces on the program of his upcoming November Carnegie Hall recital, and in late May there was a quick appearance at a fund-raising concert ("Work Hard, Japan", Earthquake Reconstruction Charity Concert May 24, 2011) in Tokyo where he performed a movement of the Rach 2. 

Otherwise, it appears that our beloved young classical pianist has been  busy pursuing a new path: that of a budding composer. 

Early in May, word came that Nobu has written music for the sound track of a summer movie in Japan, " 'Medical Charts of God"  神様のカルテA preview of the movie,,  prominently  touts Nobu as the music composer (photo above, left).  Capitalizing on that, Avex Classics is issuing an album of a collection of Nobu's self compositions, "Nobuyuki Tsujii Works, 2000-2011 (See here ) 

Then it developed that Nobu had also arranged the music for an album, ayu-mi-x, of Japanese pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki in a song called "love - destiny".

Soon after,
word came that Nobu would provide background music for a summer TV drama  called "Soredemo, Ikite Yuku”, to air in Japan in July; and a CD of that music is also forthcoming.

On June 8, the "Takeshi Art-Beat" show" was aired in Japan, and on the show Nobu's compositions -- impromptu or otherwise -- were featured, and Nobu's musicality impressed many in Japan, judging from the ensuing twitter and blog posts.  (See for a 10-minute excerpt of the show)  At the end of show, Nobu very cleverly slipped in a suggestion to the host to compose for his next film.

On June 11, women figure-skating great Midori Ito performed, at the  Master Elite Oberstdorf 2011 event,  to Nobu's recording of his own composition "Whisper of the River" (

On June 19, Nobu appeared on the Asahi TV show "Daimei" with long-time mentor Yutaka Sado and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, in an episode  of "Concert with no name" that showcases his  own compositions -- although he did perform a movement of the Rach 2 as well.   That appearance has brought on a  flurry of Twitter messages and blog posts lauding his performances and his works, including this  "review" by a blogger

(A new stage as a composer Nobuyuk Tsujii  on the 2011/6/19- Concert with No Ttitle
[Nobuyuki Tsujii's future]
The world is a big stage, "and he is expected to play at Carnegie Hall, attracting audiences around the globe.
And now it looks like in the young pianist future is also  a composer.)

A June 19 posting on the Daimei blog, presumably written by Conductor Yutaka Sado, has this loving paragraph (among other bon mots), see "久しぶりに辻井さんにお会いして、ますます大きくなられた様子がトークからも感じられましたね。温かく穏やかなお人柄は変わりませんが、やはり日々の海外での演奏活動が自信につながっていらっしゃるのでしょう。話題作を手がけたり、カーネギーホールのデビューが決まるなど、着実に次のステージに上っている様子は頼もしいです。佐渡さん、うかうかしていられませんね! (google translate -- with some editorial:   I have known  Tsujii for a long time I feel that even from a distance, he is looking bigger and bigger <editorial: hopefully he is not talking about Nobu's physical size :->. His warm and gentle personality has not changed, but performing in foreign lands has led to increased confidence.  He is always determined and engaged in his  work or subject at hand, and his Carnegie Hall debut will surely  lead to  the next stage of his career .  Mr. Sado (the writer himself) has  not <been caught?> off guard!) <Note: google translate really is powerless when dealing with an ambiguous language like Japanese - sigh - please take the translation with a large grain of salt.>

The show was barely over when two salon concerts in August were announced, at which Nobu is to perform his compositions at a renown  resort in Japan.  Judging from the admission prices, these concerts target a well-heeled audience (

So it appears that Nobu's career as a composer has taken a giant leap in Japan.  I am happy for him.  As I wrote before (Nobuyuki Tsujii - the Composer), his works as a composer will give him an extra source of income (which he needs to pay the staff that support him), and give him some diversion from the travails of concert tours.  Besides, Nobu seems to genuinely enjoy composing.

Nobu's talent as a composer is undeniable, and there is no mistaking that his compositions are greatly appreciated by his compatriots.   
The video "A Morning in Cortona", excerpted from an episode of the Japan TV Show ("Soloman Ryu") and uploaded in 2010 (by someone in Japan), has earned over 60,000 views.   And this little video that I uploaded a while back ("Nobuyuki Tsujii composes 'House of Wind'"),  an excerpt from the 2010 TV show Nobuyuki Tsujii in Majorca got over 1,000 views in the 24 hours after the airing of the "Daimei" show.  

Outside of Japan, however, I am not sure that Nobu's role as a composer is as well thought of.  In the back of my mind is this posting that came up in January of this year  on the "Cortona" video, by (I think) an American:
"He (Nobu) is the greatest pianist imaginable, but I'm not so sure he should be playing his pop pieces as encores. This might lessen his chances of true international repute. I am hoping he stops playing these in concert or he may not be taken as seriously as he deserves."

At the time, I defended Nobu: " Personally, I hope Nobu continues to do what makes him happy and not worry about the hard-nosed critics of this world." 

I must admit that I am now  having second thoughts about this. 

I happen to admire Nobu's own compositions; I am especially fond of "Whisper of the River", the original "A Morning in Cortona", and  "What the Wind Carries."  But, let's face it, these are short pieces of popular music, which I understand are favored by Nobu's compatriots.  They are, however, not quite Mozart and Chopin, and will not likely gain wide approval outside of Japan. ( I hope I am proven wrong.)  In the ultra competitive and demanding business of classical music, I suspect that there must be a lot of pressure put on Nobu in Japan  -- by his record company -- to perform these popular pieces to cater to the demand of the domestic market,  instead of classical works that have been recorded to death and draw few buyers.   (Although I personally would happily pay for whatever Nobu records.)

how could I have foreseen that his composing gigs would develop into full-blown movie sound tracks and entire CDs and concerts devoted to his own compositions -- SO SOON!  I will shell out for the new CD of his compositions, but, deep down,  I would much rather that he records instead  his beautiful Mozart,  Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt.  I am hoping that this binge on composing is a summer fling, a diversion for Nobu during a much deserved break from his grinding concert tours

Besides, he has no choice but to get back to classical music in earnest.  I am glad that Nobu is performing Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto next week (on June 23 and 25) with the Yomuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Paolo Carignani.  Three concerts -- in which he will perform Mozart concertos with the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa and Conductor Inoue Mitiyoshi, have recently been added to Nobu's schedule in September.  And of course those of us in America are eagerly awaiting his return in October, including that all-important engagement at the Carnegie Hall in November.  Further on down is a European  tour in spring 2012, which includes two performances with Conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra in England, one of which will have Nobu performing Prokofiev No. 3. 

Nobuyuki is talented enough (as we saw on the "Takeshi Art-Beat" show - June 8 2011 
) that I have no doubt that  he can handle both the roles of a rising  pianist and a budding composer -- I just hope that he will be careful in striking a balance that -- at least for the immediate future -- would favor his proven success as a classical pianist.

So, enjoy the summer, Tsujii-san, but don't forget your Mozart and Beethoven and Chopin.  And I sure hope that the Prokofiev 3 is coming along!