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The Cliburn

The Fourteenth Cliburn Competition: May 24-June 9, 2013

Pianist offers bold and successful interpretation of Tchaikovsky's First at Bass Hall

Fort Worth Symphony


Soloist Nobuyuki Tsujii

8 tonight, 2 p.m. Sunday

Bass Hall



Posted 11:48pm on Friday, Feb. 01, 2013

FORT WORTH -- To complain about yet another Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto in Fort Worth is as pointless as complaining that flowers bloom in spring. It's what flowers do, and it's what Tchaikovsky's First does, especially in years, such as this, when the Cliburn Competition is on tap.

The latest appearance, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra playing in Bass Hall on Friday night, was less subject to complaint than usual because the soloist was Nobuyuki Tsujii, and he gave a performance that was by no means routine.

It was a bold interpretation filled with subtleties of tempo, dynamics and phrasing. As co-winner of the last Cliburn Competition, Tsujii is well known to Fort Worth audiences.

It seemed to me that Friday's performance was slightly more forceful and risk-taking than some of his competition turns.

It certainly was dramatic, and judging by the rapt silence throughout, the large audience was caught up in what he was doing.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra certainly seemed attuned to his interpretation, producing bold and captivating sounds of their own.

Tsujii got a thunderous reception at the end and responded with not one but two encores. The first I didn't recognize, but the second was by Stephen Foster. (Tchaikovsky and Foster in juxtaposition? Makes sense.)

As usual, the program began with the Star-Spangled Banner. The audience sang more lustily than usual, and Harth-Bedoya turned to compliment them on their singing (maybe a first in Bass Hall).

The first classical piece on the program, which Harth-Bedoya called "maybe the most classical program of the season," was Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn. The string sound was kind of harsh, but it was a genial performance of a genial composition and a pleasant warm-up for the Tchaikovsky.

The program was unusually long, with three pieces of substantial length plus two encores, so I was unable to take in all of Schubert's Symphony No. 9 before deadline approached. It seemed to be going well, though, with some noble trombone sounds and impressive woodwinds as highlights.

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