Long honored in his native Japan, cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi is still a relative unknown on the international classical scene. He was born in 1942, which places him in the postwar generation of Asian musicians who found it tough to establish themselves in the West in a field dominated by Europeans. And his rather somber, patrician onstage demeanor may turn off younger audiences today. Contrast him with Yo-Yo Ma--a Juilliard-trained boomer and one of music's all-time great communicators--and you might understand why Tsutsumi has yet to become a box-office smash. But the neglect definitely can't be blamed on the way he handles his instrument. Tsutsumi is one of the best--fluent and lyrical yet understated and analytical. He was trained in Tokyo by the man who founded that city's prestigious Toho Conservatory and later studied with esteemed concert soloist and chamber player Janos Starker at Indiana University, where Tsutsumi now teaches. Tsutsumi won his first international prize back in '63, in the Pablo Casals Competition, but though it got him enough engagements with European ensembles, it didn't turn out to be a spectacular launching pad. Since then he's made his name mostly at home, touring with the Tokyo Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony and allying himself with talented fellow countrymen, notably Toru Takemitsu, who have written inventive pieces for him. He doesn't record all that often, but when he does it's for Japanese Sony; his latest CD is a marvelous survey of Haydn's cello concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra. Tsutsumi will make his local recital debut this weekend as part of Oak Park's Concerts Under the Dome series, playing Bach's Suite no. 5, Kodaly's folksy Sonata, and works by contemporary composers, including Toshiro Mayuzumi's Bunraku, for which he'll treat the cello as a samisen. Both performances will be preceded by a half-hour discussion. Saturday, 8 PM, Ascension Church, 815 S. East, Oak Park. Sunday, 3 PM, Saint Luke's Church, 205 N. Prospect, Park Ridge. 708-383-6456. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Don Hunstein.