Blind Japanese pianist wows international competition

FORT WORTH _ Walking arm in arm with his mother but taking confident strides onto the stage, Nobuyuki Tsujii grasped the corner of the Steinway, dropped his arm and bowed deeply toward the audience.

The shaggy-haired 20-year-old from Japan then settled himself before the concert grand, removed a cloth from a tuxedo pocket and wiped the keyboard clean with two sweeping strokes before unleashing his interpretation of Chopin, Debussy and Liszt.

Fifty recital minutes later, the first blind pianist ever to compete in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition had won the hearts of the Bass Hall audience; a standing ovation lasted five minutes. By Sunday evening, video of Tsujii’s performance, archived on the Cliburn’s Web site, was the most viewed of any performer’s so far in the competition, requested 1,673 times, about 500 more than the next-most-requested performance.

Among those impressed in the hall Saturday night was Van Cliburn himself.

"He was absolutely miraculous," Cliburn said. "His performance had the power of a healing service. It was truly divine."

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