13 Jun 2017

Neil Baker meets Nobuyuki Tsujii

“My eyes were glued on his fingers, flawlessly reciting Liszt’s dynamic composition.”


Our 17 year-old Young Ambassador Neil Baker had the chance to go backstage at the Sydney Opera House to meet the blind pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii.

The sensitivity with which Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii plays is astounding. Being a pianist myself I can appreciate how difficult it is to play a fast scale smoothly, or to jump from one part of the piano to another with one hand. Yet 28-year-old Tsujii, even though he has been blind since birth, achieves this seemingly effortlessly. 

A few weeks ago, in my role as a Young Ambassador for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, I was lucky enough to not only attend a performance of Chopin’s second piano concerto by the pianist – who goes by the nickname of ‘Nobu’ – but meet and talk with him backstage at the Sydney Opera House. After attending Nobu’s rehearsal, I also hosted a Q & A session between the pianist and several music students with visual impairments who came to learn from him.

Nobu explained in this Q & A session how he received his first piano when he was four years old and went on to develop his own way of learning new pieces.

“Not much music is available in Braille. So the way I learn new music is to have someone play the music with one hand and audio record it, and then again play the same music with the other hand. I also have someone explain what is written in the musical score.”

Nobu says there is no special secret to his success as a pianist, but to be a great musician “practice is the most important thing”, as is “being able to perform well in front of people.”

His passion for his instrument appears to be the key to his amazing command over the piano, and the motivation behind his development as a pianist: “I always try and get the music into my body. I love playing the piano.”

Nobu is keenly aware of music’s ability to emotionally affect us. When asked why music has the power to move us, he replied: “a lot of things are experienced through music: pleasure, happiness, sadness, suffering. Each person receives music in a different way, and music can show subtle feelings and changes in feeling, and I think that is why it moves us.” This feeling was certainly clear during the performance, in which he not only played the concerto but Liszt’s La Campanella as an encore. My eyes were glued on his fingers, flawlessly reciting Liszt’s dynamic composition.

While meeting and watching Nobu perform, I realised how many things I take for granted when playing: the ability to see the music and my fingers, to see the notes and be able to visualise where and how I want my hands to move.

Meeting Nobu was an incredible and inspiring experience, and I will remember it for a long time to come.

Learn more about the SSO’s Young Ambassador program.

Image credit: Tim Walsh