Following his successful UK debut with the BBC Philharmonic last December in Stoke-on-Trent, the 22-year-old Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii made a widely-anticipated appearance at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester to a sold-out crowd. Winner of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition in 2009, Nobu (as he is affectionately known) is blind from birth and has astounded both critics and audiences all over the world with his virtuosic performances as well as his deep musicality.

Listening to Nobu’s playing for the first time can be an emotional one, as I experienced myself when I first heard him at the Van Cliburn competition. The fact that this young pianist has mastered highly technical works such as Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto despite his blindness can bring tears to your eyes, as was evident with many members of the audience at the Bridgewater Hall . However, having heard him several times both on stage and on disc, I strongly hope that after the initial amazement, people will come to view him as a pianist in his own right and not as a “blind pianist”, for I firmly believe that he is a hugely gifted musician regardless of his disability.

On Friday, Nobu gave a near-flawless account of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto with the on-form BBC Philharmonic conducted by Yutaka Sado. He began his opening solo somewhat tentatively, but he was soon in his stride and was clearly enjoying the occasion. From where I was sitting in the choir circle, it seemed his playing was sometimes overpowered by the orchestra – perhaps Sado, a long-term collaborator and mentor to Nobu, could have balanced them better – but Nobu battled bravely on. The famous second movement was touchingly played without sentimentality, although I felt that he was a bit passive in interacting with the flute and clarinet solos. Nobu was most in his element in the third movement: he dazzled the audience with his buoyant and virtuosic playing and also displayed his ability as an ensemble player in the tutti sections. The amazing finale brought the house down and the audience gave a standing ovation.

The BBC Philharmonic will be embarking on a ten-concert Japan tour with Yutaka Sado and Nobuyuki Tsujii next month (tickets are mostly sold-out) and this was the reason for the popular programming. The concert began with Mendelssohn’s overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sado brought out the orchestral colours to full effect, from the eerie woodwind harmony, nimble string ensemble (impressive playing from the string section) to the warmth of the full orchestra with great contribution from the horns. Dvorak’s New World Symphony concluded the evening. A largely straightforward interpretation, if strangely devoid of Slavic sentiment, Sado conducted with bold and dynamic gestures, drawing out a passionate and energetic performance from the orchestra. On evidence of this concert, I am certain their Japan Tour will be a great success.