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The Joy of Nobuyuki Tsujii and His World of Sound | GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report

GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report
Nobuyuki Tsujii x Mika Ninagawa

The photoshoot for ISSUE 03 of the graphic magazine “GO Journal” was held on a sunlit day in January, in a concert hall in central Tokyo.

The subject of this photoshoot, shot by Mika Ninagawa, Creative Director of GO Journal, was pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. In 2009, he won the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, becoming the first ever Japanese person to do so, and he is now an internationally renowned pianist, flying all over the world for his concerts.

Ninagawa had just finished her thorough check of the lighting, camera, and other equipment, when Tsujii arrived at the studio, dressed to impress in a tuxedo.

It had been ten years since the two had seen each other last. “I’m 30 now,” said Tsujii, to which Ninagawa exclaimed, “You’re a proper adult now! You look amazing!” Tsujii grinned shyly, and Ninagawa went on, her face bright, “You haven’t changed at all since the time we met.”

Sitting in front of a full concert model Steinway piano, Tsujii placed his hands slowly on the keys, and began playing Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1.”

The scales, flowing out like water one after the other, melted away the tension in the hall. The shutter noises from the camera took on a rhythm as well, as if returning the call of the melody as it swirled through the hall.

After this initial “greeting,” Tsujii took a small breath and launched straight into Chopin’s “Revolutionary Étude Op. 10, 12.”

The straightforward harmonies from his right hand, and the snaking, ever-changing melody of his left, created an immediate shift in the previously warm and comforting atmosphere. Tsujii played on, brows furrowed, going deeper and deeper into the world of the piece.

Ninagawa kept the camera locked onto Tsujii’s fingers, pausing every so often, but only to change the lens—determined not to miss a single moment.

After closing the piece with a bold quarter note harmony, he stopped for a moment to calm his senses.

The next moment, however, he had launched into another piece, one that took everyone in the room to a different world—a world almost unimaginably different from the vibrance and intensity of the previous piece.

“Bi No Kyojin Tachi Ending Theme,” an original piece of his.
As he played, he lifted his face up, as if looking around at an endlessly wide sky—in stark contrast to a few minutes before with the Chopin piece, which he had played with his gaze fixed on one point. He rocked his body slowly back and forth, giving himself over to the beautiful melody. He smiled, his expression gentle. The melody, full of all manners of color, was joyful and endlessly kind, endlessly giving.

Ninagawa crouched, camera in hand, right beside the piano. It seemed almost as if she was capturing, with her photographs, each and every note of the music flowing through the hall.

And the two of them together, in that photoshoot, seemed almost as if they were having a private, wordless conversation.

Finally, as if in a “thank you” to the piano, Tsujii played Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque ‘Clair de Lune’,” and the performance was over.

From everywhere around the room, there erupted a very natural, almost instinctive applause. “I wished it would never end. Thank you so much for giving us this joy.”
So said Ninagawa, on behalf of all the staff members at the shoot.

Pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii and his world of sound, as seen by GO Journal Creative Director Mika Ninagawa.
To listen to the pieces from the shoot while flipping through this issue of GO Journal… A dream indeed.

See here for the photos from this shoot, as shot by Ninagawa, and Tsujii’s interview (GO Journal official website)

*See here for the GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report: Satoshi Fujimoto x Mika Ninagawa

text by Rihe Chang
photo by Hiro Nagoya

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