The 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition went down in history when the gold medal was split between the sensational 19-year-old pianist Hauncheng Zhang and Nobuyuki Tsujii, a Japanese prodigy who is blind. “Nobu,” as he is affectionately known, drove audiences and judges wild with his mastery of the most difficult piano repertoire, diving into the music with such unrestrained passion and enthusiasm that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Blind since birth, Nobu began begging his mother to play a CD of a Chopin polonaise over and over when he was 8 months (yup, months) old. At 2, he was playing all sorts of pieces on his toy piano. He made his stage debut at 10, and he's gone on to master compositions that are so challenging most pianists can't even read the notes, let alone play them. Nobu is also a brilliant chamber musician: Despite the fact that he can't see cues from the other musicians, he performed to perfection with the great Takacs String Quartet at the Cliburn as a competition requirement. This week, in The Takacs Quartet and Nobuyuki Tsujii, Nobu again joins the Takacs in Schumann's gorgeous Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44; the program also includes string quartets by Haydn and Bartok.

Sun., April 3, 7 p.m., 2011

LA Weekly