The Japanese pianist came onstage accompanied by his mother, because he is completely blind. It's interesting that most of the blind pianists in history have been on the pop and jazz side. There were some guys sitting behind me last night making predictable jokes about the irony of a blind pianist playing a piece called Images. Tsujii is no charity case, though. He has a big, brash, confident sound, and every note in his performance of Chopin Op. 10 Etudes (aside from a few noticeable errors) was crisply articulated enough to make you weep. That's the good news.
The bad news is that as an interpreter, he's not quite there yet. He went right past the music in the famous third etude, because he couldn't wait to get to the thirds. His Debussy sounded exactly like the Chopin, too, though he ended his program with Liszt's "La Campanella," a piece tailored to his strengths. The good news within the bad news is that he's only 20 years old, and there's every reason to think that he'll mature musically with time. I think it'd be a mistake for the Cliburn to reward him now when he isn't ready. The crowd that gave him a loud and lengthy ovation would disagree with me, though. Whatever happens, he's made it this far on his own merits, and that's pretty amazing.