Press

Pianist Conrad Tao Dazzles Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra Opening

  • San Diego Story

“At the piano, Tao worked musical magic, finding in this early Mozart concerto a depth and structural sophistication—at least in the outer movements—that could easily be missed in its congenial cascades of scales and figuration. Some piano virtuosi use velocity and strongly defined articulation to flaunt their technical prowess, but I felt that Tao used his ample technical gifts to open up Mozart’s complex satisfactions that lurk beneath his glossy surface. The orchestra provided Tao equally spirited and polished complement throughout, and I particularly enjoyed the animated, wry dialogue between the soloist and orchestra in the final movement, the Rondeau di Menuetto.

For his encore, Tao played Elliott Carter’s 2007 “Caténaires,” a breathtaking etude of Lisztian ferocity and brilliance. Those of us who remember his prodigious performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto with the San Diego Symphony in 2015 were not at all surprised by this impressive display, but it proved astounding nonetheless.”

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Michael Francis leads Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and pianist Conrad Tao down a marvelous path

  • The San Diego Union Tribune

“Tao played, brilliantly, in sock feet. If that’s what it takes to achieve his combination of crystalline tone and long legato lines that never allowed the musical arc to waver, piano teachers should take note. His encore, an Elliott Carter piece called “Caténaires,” jumped out of the concert’s frame in spiky splendor to show us what a uniquely American musical voice sounds like.”

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Winston-Salem Symphony Season Finale Features Exciting Performances by Conrad Tao

  • CVNC

“Tao tore up the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 by Prokofiev […] The audience was immediately struck by the pianist’s ferocious power and incredible facility. Tao often played the fiendishly difficult passages like a man possessed. To be sure, there were moments of incredible lyricism, but the takeaway was Tao’s flying fingers and his flamboyant style. He was as much fun to watch as to hear.

[…] ‘The world is very different now’ displayed a multitude of influences – from the blocks of sound pioneered by Ligeti and Penderecki to ethereal vibraphone sounds created by bowing one note and full-scale assault by four percussionists. There were also dreamy passages that came in waves as the orchestral sound peaked and receded. Add some bugle calls and a haunting alto saxophone beautifully played by Eileen Young, and you begin to get a sense of this sometimes languid, sometimes sinister, intense and fragmented composition.”

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Review: A Pianist Brings American Rage to a Church Crypt

  • New York Times

“In the crypt, the sheer volume of Mr. Tao’s sound during frenzied climaxes was near-deafening, yet exhilarating.”

“In between the Rzewski pieces, Mr. Tao played Copland’s 1941 Piano Sonata, which I’ve never thought of as expressing American rage — especially the fleet second movement, which darts around like some blend of American swing and atonal pointillist writing. Leonard Bernstein captures that quality vividly in a 1947 recording I love. It was fascinating, though, to hear Mr. Tao draw out every dissonance-statured, vehement element of the sonata while also bringing affecting tranquillity to the pensive conclusion of the last movement.”

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Wow! Piano protegé Conrad Tao just took our breath away

  • Arizona Daily Star

“Tao literally took our breath away… He made [‘Rhapsody in Blue’] come to brilliant life with an energetic, bouncing-off-his-piano-bench performance that felt almost improvised. He slowed down for the more sobering passages, but you could sense this energy surging from his fingertips waiting to let loose.

You’d think his encore would be something along the lines of Gershwin, but Tao, who won a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant at the tender age of 17 back in 2012, pulled out a piece by American icon Elliott Carter. It was something the late composer — he died in 2012 a month shy of his 104th birthday — had penned at age 97, but Tao made it sound like it came from a much younger hand.”

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Rising star Conrad Tao offers a diverse program for the Cliburn Sessions at Live Oak Music Hall and Lounge.

  • Theater Jones Performing Arts News

“While American orchestras these days have acquired the healthy habit of throwing a contemporary work into every other concert or so, Tao proved that balancing a substantial body of new, groundbreaking music with one of the more demanding works from the canon (in this case, Beethoven’s Sonata No 31 in A-flat, Opus 110) can create a fascinating, and, judging by audience response, crowd-pleasing program. Orchestras, artists, and presenters restrained by the concept that audiences have to hear something from the classical hit parade on every concert, and that every new work has to be balanced by a warhorse (which Opus 110 is definitely not), should take notice of Tao’s very successful strategy.”

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Conrad Tao gives casual concert worthy of more formal venue

  • Star-Telegram

“Rzewski’s part of the work was noisy and random, never staying in one place too long and never giving any hint of its source (Tao played a recording of a portion of the song to set up the piece). But Tao’s response to the tune was highly accessible and engaging. It reworked and revealed the song without directly quoting it. And the crowd that filled the cozy venue did not hide its approval (one of the fun things about these Live Oak performances is that the audiences hoot and holler when they like something).”

“Instead of delivering Liszt’s usual keyboard bombast, the piece was sweet, gentle and lullabylike. It made a revealing finish to a clever union of works that showcased Tao’s ability to handle the past as well as he does the present.”

“After a brief intermission, the 22-year-old Illinois native closed his concert with a gorgeous rendering of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31. The opening moderato cantabile molto espressivo (“slightly singing and very expressive”) was exactly that, with Tao playing with great delicacy in one passage and with extreme playfulness in the next. A proud and strident middle movement segued into a closing section that began dreamily, then stormed into a dazzling finish that really allowed Tao to show off.”

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Conrad Tao and the ASO Present Copland, Diamond and Gershwin

  • CVNC

“For the last thirty or more years, my benchmark for this piece has been Earl Wild with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. I have a new benchmark now. Tao has all the brilliant technique that Wild famously displayed, but (a composer as well as a pianist) Tao displays more thought in his interpretation. He bent the rhythms at times, showing his mastery of jazz style without disturbing his rapport with the accompanying orchestra. He found connections and bridges that I had been unaware of, observed pauses that emphasized the importance of silence in the midst of music, and generally convinced the audience that this was a performance to remember.”

 
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Peninsula Symphony and Conrad Tao Take Schumann Deep

  • San Francisco Classical Voice

“The performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor gave a clear indication that Tao is seeking his own path, away from orthodoxy. He made an explosive entry, but gave a dark, melancholic reading of the wistful theme. With clear, articulate lines, Robert Schumann’s passionate ardor towards Clara was expressed with determination, through deliberate tempos. Rather than letting the music be overly sentimental, rendering it a torrent of rage, Tao illustrated its volatile…personality with an unusual level of clarity and dryness. It almost felt as if the music gave a third-person account of the composer, rather than the music being by Schumann himself. Tao’s fresh perspective laid strong emphasis on the music’s architecture.”

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Jubilant, fresh takes on Beethoven, Schumann from NACO

  • Ottawa Citizen

“On Sunday, Conrad Tao played an impressive double-header featuring the Schumann Concerto and Beethoven’s Emperor. He wowed not only with his prowess at the keyboard, but with his preternatural sang-froid: Tao spent over an hour trapped in a hotel elevator and arrived at the hall with just minutes to spare.

If the ordeal had any impact on his playing, you couldn’t tell from the hall. The slightly built, outrageously gifted 22-year-old American is mostly known for his intrepid, fiery performances of 20th- and 21st-century music, including his own compositions, and he brought an original, modernist sensibility to these two monuments of Romantic piano literature.

Tao has a trick of subtly emphasizing bass lines and syncopations in a way that sounds fresh yet organic, never forced or overblown. He has huge technique and facility, but it’s his relaxed, almost jazzy approach to the music that stood out. The Schumann was all restless energy and shifting, interior light. The Beethoven had a lively, prancing magnificence, vivid as a film. An encore of Caténaires, Elliott Carter’s bristling Iron Throne of a toccata, had both meticulous control and lethal attack.”

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The Biggest Attraction of the Nashville Symphony’s Program Was a Blast From the Past

  • John Pitcher

“The concert’s most memorable moment occurred when a youthful guest artist performed music written by a 97-year-old…the audience that filled the Schermerhorn on Oct. 7 seemed genuinely dazzled by Carter’s score. As Tao’s fleet fingers raced through Caténaires, a dissonant perpetual-motion piece that Carter composed at age 97, the audience listened with breathless excitement. In the end, they roared their approval, giving Tao a sustained ovation. I’ve reviewed concerts for decades, and this was the first time I heard Carter’s fiendishly difficult, cerebral music played as an encore. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

[…] In his performance, Tao emphasized the [Grieg] concerto’s showy side, playing with blistering speed while indulging in an orgy of octaves. Yet there was more to Tao’s playing than mere razzle-dazzle. He was an imaginative tonal colorist who used the piano’s sustain pedal to create a wash of prismatic overtones. And he made the finale his own, turning the movement’s familiar Norwegian rhythm into an off-kilter dance. The NSO’s associate conductor, Vinay Parameswaran, provided Tao with colorful, flexible accompaniment.”

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Virginia Symphony Orchestra starts season with “fireworks”

  • Virginia Gazette

“Tao…surpassed reputation. He delivered an intense, involved, passion-inspired performance that was one of the most thrilling to be heard on stage with this symphony. His was a very physical delivery. Tao seemed to become one with the instrument and the score; he moved about constantly on the piano bench, often, in moments of heightened emphasis rising up from the bench, his feet frequently moving about and not strictly on the pedals. As he molded the lush lines of the piece, he seemed transfixed, his eyes closed, his head tossed backward in dream-like fashion. 

Tao was the master of the Rachmaninoff and its many moods, offering inspired lyricism and ponderous power. As for technique, his defined virtuoso in a brilliant display of total musicianship and artistry. Even though the Rachmaninoff was a major workout, Tao generously responded to his thunderous and spontaneous applause with an encore of Elliot Carter’s “Catenaires,” a devilishly difficult work. The chordless work is a nonstop rapid fire delivery of notes that bounce all over the keyboard in what might seem haphazard fashion, offering colorful and often dissonant combinations of sound, all carried off to perfection.”

 
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Conrad Tao Wows at Berkeley Symphony

  • Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice

“[Tao] displayed a remarkable affinity for Beethoven at Berkeley, with ever-interesting nuances of interpretation combined with a surprising display of power considering his relatively lightweight frame.

All during his magnificent rendition of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, Tao’s arms were straightjacketed by a tight-fitting suit. He had to flail his arms out vigorously behind him. Had they gone up instead, ripping sounds would have supplemented the music.

Following patrons’ tumultuous response to the concerto, Tao returned, now coatless, for two minutes of encore virtuosity with a combination of speed, difficulty, and perfection of execution that was utterly jawdropping: Elliot Carter’s 2006 ‘Caténaires.’”

 

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2015 Reger Awards: The year in classical music

  • Tim Mangan, Orange County Register

“Best Encore: To pianist Conrad Tao, for daring to play Elliott Carter’s ultra-thorny ‘Caténaires’ and for wrestling it into submission.”

 

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Threes are the charm for Pacific Symphony

  • Tim Mangan, Orange County Register

“Conrad Tao was back. Pacific Symphony audiences were introduced to the pianist (and composer) back in 2011, when he substituted for an indisposed Yuja Wang. He was 16 then, and not very well known, and took everyone by pleasant surprise.

He’s returned a couple times since and there he was again, Thursday night in Segerstrom Concert Hall, 21 and bearded and stylishly dressed now, but still with a friendly, glad-to-be-here stage deportment. His vehicle was Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece he’s been playing for almost a decade already, he said.

It is a famously spiky, muscular and percussive work, written for a virtuoso to do his zing. Tao hunkered down and went at it like a determined demon. The allegro tempos were taken at racing speed, even faster than usual. The phrases all snapped, held taut, wound up and then cracked like a whip.

Even the dreamy passages in the slow movement had a certain firmness, as if Tao (and by extension Prokofiev) were saying, “This isn’t Rachmaninoff anymore.” Throughout, the playing was clean and dry, pointed and hammered, but never flashy. This was Prokofiev’s Third dispatched through gritted teeth. It was an exciting performance and in response to the ovation Tao offered an encore.

This was very likely the first time that the ultra-thorny music of Elliott Carter (1908-2012) was played in Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tao took a chance with “Caténaires,” written by Carter in his late 90s and which sounds like a blistering atonal jazz solo on steroids. But he played it with such aggression and exactitude and rapidity that he put it across and looked pleased at the applause.”

– Tim Mangan, Orange County Register (December 2015)

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Tuesday Musical: Conrad Tao at E.J. Thomas Hall

  • Daniel Hathaway, Cleveland Classical

“Bounding back onstage after intermission, Tao brought vast kinetic energy as well as his keen structural insights as a composer to his masterful playing of Mussorgsky’s Pictures. This is a suite that goads many pianists into self-indulgent flights of pianism, but Conrad Tao was a model of control and restraint. His brush strokes were vivid but not ostentatious. Humorous scenes sparkled. The hut of Baba Yaga was drawn with bizarre but not horrific colors, and no pounding or ringing hammers besmirched the grandeur of the Great Gate of Kiev. Toward the end of his uncannily flawless performance, Tao prominently missed a single left hand octave, as if to prove he was human after all.

After being called back several times, Conrad Tao noted that this had been a “stressful” program, but that he would give the crowd a little something extra. That turned out to be the last movement of Prokofiev’s seventh sonata, a lengthy, fierce toccata that only a 21-year-old would think of dashing off at that point. It was spectacular.”

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Pianist Tao on quest to revive concert experience

  • Shaun Tandon, Agence-France Press

“I don’t think that familiarity is all that sustainable and it’s also, from a selfish perspective, just not that interesting to me,” he said. Tao hopes to create a more welcoming atmosphere than fostered by formal concerts, saying he feels satisfied when concert-goers feel comfortable coming up to him and saying what they did not like. “Audiences do enjoy feeling challenged, as long as you are not being pedantic or patronizing,” he said.

Tao performs “Pictures at an Exhibition” with an emotional intensity so palpable that it comes off physically, with the final movement’s triumphant chords shaking both the pianist and crowd around him in the crypt.“

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Pianist captures Gershwin’s charisma in Pittsburgh Symphony debut

  • Elizabeth Bloom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

”[Tao’s] interpretation of Gershwin’s Concerto in F served as the highlight of the program, conducted by former PSO principal guest conductor Leonard Slatkin. Mr. Tao’s pitch-perfect interpretation seemed to ooze the spirit of 1920s New York — which was fitting for a work that Gershwin initially called the “New York Concerto.” Mr. Tao leaned heavily on the work’s intrinsic syncopated character, which he punched out with an in-your-face, American candor (the first-movement duet with slapstick comes to mind). But he also displayed a lustrous tone and nimble technique.“

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America stars in composer’s thrilling music

  • Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“The composer was 18 when he wrote ‘Pangu,’ a seven-minute tone poem inspired by an ancient Chinese creation myth. It is vivid music, effectively scored, which sounds thoroughly American and was persuasively performed by Slatkin and the orchestra.

Nothing is more American or more New York than George Gershwin, whose Piano Concerto received a stunning performance Friday night. It was easy to hear why demands on Tao’s time as a performer are cutting in on his time as a composer. This was far more than a virtuoso performance. It was not only thrillingly rhythmical, but extraordinarily sensitive in lyrical passages without being sentimental.

[…] Tao’s encore was Elliott Carter’s “Catenaires” in a stunningly high-energy performance, the first Carter performance at Heinz Hall in many years.”

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Review

Classical Playlist: Conrad Tao, ‘Scrapyard Exotica’ and More

  • Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“On this fascinating album, aptly titled, the brilliant 21-year-old American pianist Conrad Tao, a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer who is also a composer, has surrounded a repertory staple, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” with varied works by contemporary composers, including himself. All of these pieces, in different ways, evoke images and people through music. The program opens with David Lang’s rhythmically hypnotic “cage,” a tribute to John Cage, and ends with Mr. Lang’s ruminative “wed” (from “Memory Pieces”). There is also a mysterious, alluring work by Toru Takemitsu; Mr. Tao’s dreamy “A Walk (for Emilio),” a portrait of Emilio del Rosario, Mr. Tao’s first significant teacher; and Elliott Carter’s “Two Thoughts About the Piano,” a pair of breathlessly skittish, complex pieces, played dazzlingly by Mr. Tao, especially the perpetual- motion “Caténaires.” Though his account of “Pictures at an Exhibition” is sometimes a little percussive for my taste, he plays it with enormous imagination, color and command.”

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A ‘screen test’ for Chamber Orchestra

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Conrad Tao’s An Adjustment, which opened the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s 51st season, did not succumb to technology for its own sake. In fact, the electronic sounds he controlled from his screens dropped into the piece only in the most judicious way. The focus was on the interplay between the orchestra and Tao’s Steinway, and any compositional magic – there was plenty – happened the old-fashioned way.

[…] Tao was also soloist in the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, which one wag noted starts with Bach and ends with Offenbach. He was a stunning soloist, but specifically so because he kept his monstrous technique on a leash. At age 21, rather than flaunting it, he used it for sincerity and wit – waiting a split second in certain entrances for a flash of humor, or holding back for emphasis. The opening was moving, and the way he paced mounting intensity in the last minutes uncovered the best in this work, but also mirrored the end of his own new concerto.

It’s perhaps too much to think of An Adjustment as a companion piece to the Saint-Saëns, but they do share contours like the lurching dialogue of orchestra and soloist at the start, and the traversal of bleak territory on the way to an incredible release (an adjustment in medication, perhaps, as Tao writes that the piece is partly about depression).

If Saint-Saëns touched on two eras, Tao integrated in the most imaginative way the current style of spiritual post-Romanticism and ’90s techno club music. The electronic element was a clever manipulation of beats fed through two speakers on stage – clever not because it suggested humor or irony, but because it extended the impact of the orchestral texture. Cultural bridges were everywhere, but everywhere they elided naturally. The uneasy opening movement gave way to a subtle conversation that worked through despair, a realm both beautiful and creepy, a radiant climax and a brief stopover at jazz before ending in a haze of electronic-acoustical ecstasy.”

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Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia Presents a Dazzling New Talent

  • Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International

“[An Adjustment] plays for about 30 minutes, and is laid out in two movements, each in two sections. That design, you may notice, recalls the formal structure of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto—but Tao has his own reasons, and his new work, in my judgement, need fear nothing from comparison with one of the 20th century’s accepted classics. The prevailing impression left by the piece is of a fearlessly up-to-date musical language, situated somewhere between tonal and atonal elements, sometimes astringent but often sensuously luxuriant in sound. Rather like the great Xenakis, Tao is a composer whose recourse to contemporary techniques serves not to conceal but rather to illuminate by contrast an underlying vein of rich romanticism. With all the uncompromising vehemence of many passages in the piece, it also features some richly expressive string textures, and moments, like the well-judged chordal writing for the horns in the big climax near the end, that penetrate the orchestral textures very effectively. The piano part, too, embraces lyrical delicacy as well as emphatic declamation.

An Adjustment earns its “concerto” subtitle not from any specific reference to familiar classical or romantic formal devices, but from the sheer force of personality that the solo part exerts over the contribution of a by-no-means damped-down orchestral complement. There is also a pre-recorded electronic track, which, without being too obtrusive, supplied a welcome sonorous underpinning to the solo and orchestral textures; it might even not be needed in large-orchestra performances with more double-bass players than the Chamber Orchestra’s accomplished two.

Impeccably partnered by music director Dirk Brossé and an evidently enthusiastic orchestra, Tao unfurled a fearsome range of pianistic technique and expressive freedom. Returning after intermission, he showed himself equally at home in Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto, which emerged from this performance sounding at once stronger in conception and more beguiling in manner than ever. As notable as the way Tao ranged from firm classical restraint to warm emotion, coruscating brilliance, and a delightful flexibility of rhythm was his ability to take a seemingly prosaic accompaniment, as at the second theme of the scherzando second movement, and make it dance; I’d love to hear what he would do with the cheeky left-hand part in the finale of Mozart’s A-major Concerto, K. 488.”

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Conrad Tao and friends play Rachmaninoff, Bartók and Copland

  • Dallas Morning News

“Conrad Tao joins great intellect to formidable technique. […] It was a treat Saturday to hear Copland’s unjustly neglected Piano Sonata, dating from 1941. (A quick search suggested that this was the first concert performance of it I’ve heard here in 15 years.) […] Tao gave a gripping performance, finely timed and layered.”

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Show thief!

  • San Diego Reader

“Conrad Tao stole the show twice on Saturday, May 2, at Symphony Hall. He tore the place apart with the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 and then upstaged that monster with the conclusion of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 as an encore.

It is difficult for a pianist on the world stage to stand out from the pack but Tao does. His playing leaps off the stage and charges down your ears like a conquering army of musical notation.”

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Utah Symphony, Conrad Tao give a concert to please emperors and commoners alike

  • Salt Lake Tribune

“Pianist Conrad Tao continued his string of impressive guest appearances with the Utah Symphony, filling in on two days’ notice for an ailing André Watts to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”). (His five-season streak, which now includes three late substitutions, is all the more impressive considering he is 20 years old.)

Tao played the “Emperor” with confidence and verve. Undoubtedly Watts, who at 68 is old enough to be Tao’s grandfather, would have given a more reflective reading, but the younger man’s turbo-charged performance thrilled the near-capacity crowd. Guest conductor Hugh Wolff’s bracing tempos added to the sense of immediacy.

Tao responded to the enthusiastic ovation in kind, unleashing a dazzlingly virtuosic rendition of Elliott Carter’s “Catenaires” that made the formidable Beethoven seem like a warmup exercise.“

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Public Radio’s Best In-Studio Performances Of 2014

  • NPR

“Conrad Tao performed Bach’s Toccata in F Sharp Minor in the midst of an evening that also included music by Elliott Carter, David Lang and Chopin. Maybe those other voices injected the vibrancy and color you hear into the 20-year-old composer-pianist’s performance. But it may also have been the setting. It was a Groupmuse event, giving Tao the opportunity to essentially host a party centered on music. Given what we know about Bach, the seriousness and devotion of his life had another side. That night, more than most, his music truly spanned the centuries and the generations.”

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Pianist Conrad Tao an explosive force in the BSO’s latest program

  • Baltimore Sun

“Tao possesses startling technical elan and an ability to communicate clearly, no matter how thorny a score may become. He also has a hefty dash of charm…

To [Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1], the informally attired Tao brought remarkable spontaneity and colorful phrasing. And even in the most raucous, jazzy portions of the finale, he managed to avoid a clangy tone. There was always musicality, not just virtuosity, at every turn…

Tao happily offered an encore, tearing into the thunderous finale of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 with a ferocity and velocity that seemed in danger of causing self-combustion.”

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Memorable night of music-making at Baltimore Symphony’s Strathmore Hall

  • Washington Post

“Young keyboard phenom Conrad Tao commanded the solo part in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 1, with playing of assertive virtuosity, razor-sharp articulation, and an embrace of both the rhapsodic and the anarchic in the writing. (In an encore, Tao further displayed his chops by whipping through a scorching rendition of the final movement from Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata.)”

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Letter: Battle Creek Symphony brings amazing talent

  • Battle Creek Enquirer

“For a jaw dropping performance, there was pianist Conrad Tao
Who one-handed the left-handed Ravel Concerto.
Then he let both hands dance
In his encore performance,
Seemingly playing it ‘with ten fingers and both elbows.’”

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In Performance: Conrad Tao

  • New York Times

“Conrad Tao, a pianist and a composer, has been on a roll. Last year he produced a new music festival in New York, released his first major-label album, and wrote a piece for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This year he will be the artist-in-residence in Dallas, play concerts around the country and the world, and open the New York Youth Symphony’s season Nov. 23 at Carnegie Hall. And he’s only 20.

Here he is playing the impassioned final movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7. “It’s kinetic and scary and exciting,’’ he said just before sitting down at the piano, “but also, I think, extremely harmonically rich.””

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Classical music review: Slatkin leads concert of fun and virtuosity with SLSO

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Not quite 20, pianist (and violinist, and composer) Conrad Tao is the best kind of prodigy, über-talented and radiating pleasure at performing great music. Tao made his SLSO debut last season, filling in at the last moment; this performance proved that it was anything but a fluke.

Camille Saint-Saëns’ optimistic Piano Concerto No. 2 in G-minor provided a fine showcase for his talent. The long opening section for solo piano evokes Bach, then moves into Romantic territory, without every becoming overbearing. The soloist must play with Baroque clarity and Romantic power, with delicacy and with strength; Tao made it all seem effortless, and gave the sense that he was having the time of his life.

That was even more clear in his encore, the final movement of the Prokofiev Piano Sonata. With busy, spiky elements, it’s totally different from the Saint-Saëns, and Tao rocked it with a definite air of “Isn’t this cool?””

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Concert review: A triumphant return by pianist Conrad Tao and the St. Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin

  • kdhx.org

“Mr. Tao’s performance of the opening mini-cadenza was appropriately splashy, but not overpoweringly so. It set the tone for a performance that did full justice to the composer’s keyboard pyrotechnics without ever descending into mere flash for flash’s sake.

Mr. Tao’s ability to project a more delicate sound was most obvious in the second movement—a fleet-footed scherzo with a piano part that sparkles like Champagne. A less sensitive player might (to carry on the metaphor) cause the bubbles to go flat, but Mr. Tao remained effervescent.

The manic tarantella finale that followed generated all the required thrills and resulted in a much-deserved standing ovation. That, in turn, resulted in an encore that gave Mr. Tao a chance to truly show off: the concludingVivace—Moderato—Vivace from Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata No. 2 in D Minor,” Op. 14 (1912). The movement is a wild, percussive ride that covers almost the entire eight octaves of the keyboard and even (with its repeated triplets) suggests something of thetarantella—which makes it a most appropriate choice following the concerto.”

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Review: ‘Hungarian Rhapsodies’ provoked by gifted Conrad Tao

  • Calgary Herald

“… this was no ordinary pianist. Conrad Tao, the CPO’s guest, is now all of 20 years old, but his playing was little short of a miracle. Technically gifted on a level with Yuja Wang or Lang Lang, he has already joined the ranks of the super-gifted few, his accomplishments as an artist are far beyond anything one might expect at such an age.”

“First there was a tremendous account of the Totentanz, with Tao’s playing at its most imaginative in colour and character. Technically, one could only be in awe.

In response to the overwhelming ovation that greeted the final chords, Tao offered an encore of the well-known Rhapsody No. 6 by Liszt, a favourite of Horowitz, which was performed with absolute clarity and an amazing delivery of the notes. it was a performance that indeed did send the audience in to Hungarian rhapsodies, the shouts of approbation heard throughout the hall. It was nothing less than a complete triumph.”

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REVIEW: Tao tops Tchaikovsky

  • The Gazette

“Tao took off in a blaze with Rachmaninoff”s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.” This is an ever-shifting score comprised of 24 variations with appropriate packaging. Tao conquered this wild ride, easily projecting its extremes: heavy handed, almost comical histrionics, and thoughtful, patient and, at times, supremely beautiful intimacy.

Bonus points…were scored by Tao’s ability to tell a dramatic story through his playing, and, ironically, how he set up and reveled in the few moments of silence the score provides.

Next, more of the same. Liszt’s “Totentanz” (“Dance of Death”) had to have been a model that Rachmaninoff had in mind for his “Rhapsody.” The theme here was the ancient Latin setting of the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath”), which had also invaded the first piece.

Again, variations. And now, with Tao hurling himself at the composer’s insanely difficult keyboard demands at death defying speed, the daemonic underpinning came off more like a cartoon than a harrowing journey to the grave. It was over the top and wonderful.”

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POWERFUL, MOVING PERFORMANCE BY UTAH SYMPHONY FRIDAY

  • Reichel Recommends

“Pianist Conrad Tao… completely mesmerized the audience with his performance of the Third Concerto by Prokofiev. What a performer! The level of precision on display was beyond impressive, and the closing minutes of the third and final movement revealed an energy that was simply exhilarating. Tao’s mastery of technique is only part of the picture, though. His approach to the music itself was dynamic, unusually expressive, and engaging with the technical mastery always serving to aid in the interpretation. Prokofiev was a brilliant writer for the piano, and Tao found some incredible sounds. Like any savvy performer, Tao saved his best stuff for the end, and the audience responded with an uncommon level of enthusiasm. The encore, a prelude by Rachmaninoff, capped off one of the strongest musical stretches I’ve heard in Abravanel Hall.”

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Review: Pianist Conrad Tao is in his element at Abravanel Hall

  • The Salt Lake Tribune

“The American pianist made his first visit to Abravanel Hall in 2010 (when, a seasoned pro at age 16, he pinch-hit for an ailing Horácio Gutiérrez), and it has been exciting to witness his growth as an artist. This weekend, he’s playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, an ideal vehicle for his remarkable talents. Tao’s fluid, confident phrasing meshed with Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer’s bracing tempos to exhilarating effect. Concerto performances sometimes take on the quality of chamber music, when the soloist seems to click with one particular section or player in the orchestra; on Friday night, it was principal percussionist Keith Carrick whose rapport with Tao riveted the listener’s attention.”

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Oklahoma City Philharmonic review: ‘Sizzling Sparklers’ shine

  • The Oklahoman

“Tao navigated Prokofiev’s complex passagework with confidence and musical understanding, all the while illuminating the composer’s acerbic wit, sly insouciance and unrelenting rhythmic drive.”

“The central movement’s theme and variations spotlighted the soloist’s pianistic range, from elegance and playfulness to hushed mysticism and exuberance. Tao’s intelligent approach to music making was apparent throughout the vivid finale, one of the repertoire’s finest showpieces.”

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Classical Tributes to Kennedy in Dallas

  • New York Times

“The World Is Very Different Now,” the young Conrad Tao’s new piece in the Dallas Symphony program, also plays personal against public, taking its origin, in Mr. Tao’s words, from “the many devastatingly personal stories that use J.F.K.’s assassination as a starting point,” responses to “a seemingly inexplicable act of public violence.” The demarcations here are not so clear, and it was hard to take the measure of the piece at all on first hearing, since the performance was overwhelmed by strong but distracting visual images from a film commissioned for these performances but not an integral part of the work.

So I went back to hear Mr. Tao’s piece again on Friday evening, this time with eyes firmly closed, and it proved shapely and powerful, especially in its haunting, accepting if not optimistic coda. At 19, Mr. Tao knows his way around a large orchestra (here including scrap metal as percussion) as well as many an elder master.”

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A Conrad Tao Premiere Honors Kennedy in Dallas

  • New York Times

“ ’The World Is Very Different Now,’ its title derived from Kennedy’s inauguration speech in 1961, seemed an episodic but smooth and mostly attractive series of mood paintings: ominous, tortured, reflective, triumphantly clangorous, resigned. There were little quirks, like the use of scrap metal as percussion and a skewed lick from ‘Reveille.’”

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Review: Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s JFK memorial concert

  • Star-Telegram

“Tao is quite a talented pianist and, judging by the new composition, is gifted as a composer as well. His work, whose title is a line from a Kennedy speech, is remarkably atmospheric, creating shifting moods that arguably reflect the atmosphere of a world that Tao himself never actually experienced…the work is never truly funereal. There are haunting passages that are strikingly appealing…the work draws listeners by creating moods and with remarkable orchestral color.”

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Review: Mozart, Shostakovich mix proved a rare blend

  • Ottawa Citizen

“[Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 in F] is among Mozart’s finest… Tao’s playing was almost startling in its clarity of sound and purpose. The Allegretto was especially ravishing. It is surely one of Mozart’s finest concerto movements and the playing was impeccable…By the way, Tao is 19 and is still studying at Julliard and Columbia. His talent is almost beyond belief.”

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Stamford Symphony; Last Minute Magic

  • Stamford Advocate

“The call went out to the young piano phenomenon Conrad Tao. Tao had performed in the Symphony’s “Stern Showcase Recitals” Series in 2010 and filled in on late notice for SSO’s Music Director and Conductor Eckart Preu with his orchestra in Spokane. Problem: Tao was in Mexico. He had a performance with an orchestra there on Thursday evening. Advantage: Tao is only 19 and has apparently unlimited energy, so he flew back to Stamford, had only one rehearsal with the orchestra, and knocked the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 out of the park.”

“Tao played the work hot. So hot that fire seemed to jump out of the piano case. He brought out the full spectrum of its colors, but won us over primarily by his strong intellectual grasp of the music, which is often underplayed by pianists.”

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Program of music’s notorious jokesters

  • Albuquerque Journal

“Tao’s playing [of the Shostakovich Concerto] was bold and decisive, much in the Russian style of playing, and much the way the composer himself would have played it. More than merely dazzlingly technical, Tao also brought out the comedy of this musical satire, especially in the final Allegro, which is often described as quasi circus music. O’Connor masterfully held together all these wildly competing musical forces, especially his energetic pianist, as rambunctious as a young stallion out of the gate.”

“The youthful Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat “Jeunehomme,” is often thought to be Mozart’s first great masterpiece, full of surprises for contemporaries who would have expected certain formalities of style. Here Tao well demonstrated that his talent is more than that of a brilliant technique. His playing remained bold but with a grace necessary to the subtleties of the music. ”

“This was a deeply felt, passionate and consummate account, full of emotional drama, even operatic at moments. Finally, a delicious sense of mischief informed the Rondo capping off Sunday’s afternoon of music-making of the highest order.”

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Pasa Reviews: Taking it slow

  • Pasatiempo

“The program’s high point was Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit…[Tao’s] best work came in the opening movement, “Ondine,” depicting a seductive water sprite. Here the pianist negotiated its cascades of notes with hands that, octopus-like, seemed everywhere on the keyboard at once. But Tao’s greater triumph was again his delicate sensitivity to rhythm, through which Ravel’s sweeping lines were subsumed into the ceaseless current. It is not often that music and musician seem so completely conjoined.”

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Review: For good and ill, Tao and Pacific have a blast

  • OC Register

“Tao was the highlight of the evening. He took on Rachmaninoff’s daunting and infamous Piano Concerto No. 3, a most unreasonable work that he, somehow, made sound perfectly reasonable. …To Tao, Rach 3 is a piece of music with ebbs and flows, highs and lows, little details to be nurtured and thundering bits to be dispatched clearly…[Tao’s] playing was purposeful. The left hand knew what the right hand was doing and most of the time it thought the right hand was more important. This clarified the murk and turmoil. He never dawdled needlessly over the quiet moments. He never swooned annoyingly over climaxes. This was a crisp, clear-eyed and thoroughly musical interpretation. His technique rose to every occasion. The finale was especially fun; he took it very quickly.”

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This pianist-composer prodigy makes you sit up and take notice

  • Limelight

“Is there anything that 19-year-old American musical prodigy Conrad Tao can’t do? Here’s a kid whose concert party-piece is to appear as soloist in both the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto and Violin Concerto in the one concert; he’s already won eight ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards; this month he’s curating his own festival, made possible through various career grants, and now, with an exclusive contract, EMI have anointed him as the beacon of hope amid their recent slough- of-despond merger machinations. So his debut full-length piano album had better be good, right?

Well it is good, refreshing even, right from the outset where he begins with the seemingly implausible choice of avant-garde polymath Meredith Monk’s Railroad (Travel Song), straight out of the contemporary American minimalist library and ultimately proving an inspired choice, both for its crossover appeal and its sense of a journey lying ahead.”

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Review

Music Review: Conrad Tao – “Voyages”

  • Blogcritics Magazine

Voyages, which begins with a debut recording of Meredith Monk’s “Railroad” (subtitled, appropriately, “Travel Song”) is a mix of original compositions by Tao that’s supplemented by piano pieces by more traditional composers as Sergei Rachmaninov and Maurice Ravel, which complement the central concept of the album in seamless fashion.”

“Tao’s playing on a selection of five preludes by Rachmaninov as well as Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” is wonderful in the extreme, but his two original compositions, “Vestiges,” and “Iridescence” (for piano and iPad) are the real treat. In the liner notes, Tao describes “Vestiges” as “surreal images that were undergoing metamorphosis, literally and musically.” Of the four pieces that make up the work (all of which are prefaced with the preposition “upon”), “Vestiges: Upon being” is the one that most lingers. It provides a complex range of emotions, from yearning to contemplation, and leaves the listener with a serene sense of acceptance.”

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Pianist Tao Taps Simple Charms of Getty Miniatures

  • Classical Voice North America

“The 19-year-old American pianist (and violinist and composer) Conrad Tao plays these pieces with obvious love, commitment and meticulous care in matters of dynamics, color, contrast and rhythmic nuance. … Tao tells a story, paints a picture or creates a little adventure with every piece. His playing is so imaginative and persuasive that he virtually commands your attention.“

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Review

Meet Conrad Tao – A young musician to remember

  • New York Press

“The highlight of the program was his own work, vestiges. … There are four movements in this work. The first is Impressionistic, Debussyan. The second is a perpetual-motion exercise, reminding me of a Prokofiev toccata. The next called to mind Mompou—perhaps one of his Impresiones íntimas. The final one is Reichian, minimalistic, in the beginning. Then it becomes rhapsodic, Impressionistically rhapsodic, in the mold of L’Isle joyeuse (Debussy). I have done the lazy thing of comparing new music to preceding music. But Tao’s pieces are not imitative, they are his own, and they are beautiful and intelligent. I would be pleased to see them on any other pianist’s program. They are more than one pianist’s private scribbles.”

“This month, from the 11th through the 13th, Tao will host his own festival in Brooklyn, the Unplay Festival. About Chopin, Schumann famously said, “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius.” I don’t know whether Tao is a genius. It depends on our standards for that category. But I know that he is extraordinary, and that our hats should be off.”

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Review

Lauded, but Not Resting on His Laurels

  • The New York Times

“During the first 19 years of his life the pianist, violinist and composer Conrad Tao has achieved more than many artists do in twice as many years. Still a student in a Columbia University-Juilliard School joint-degree program, Mr. Tao has earned an Avery Fisher Career Grant, a Gilmore Young Artist Award and eight consecutive Ascap Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, to name only a few of his accolades.

Tuesday was Mr. Tao’s 19th birthday, and he gave a party to celebrate. But in keeping with Mr. Tao’s prodigious ambition and rapid career ascent, Tuesday also saw the arrival of his new EMI Classics CD, “Voyages,” and his fledgling new-music series, the Unplay Festival, which he opened with a concert at the Powerhouse Arena, a bookstore and arts space in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

At a glance, the three-concert series impresses with its clever organization. Tuesday’s program, “ePhemera,” was inspired by the fleeting, unpredictable qualities of the Internet’s digital frontier. The Wednesday program, “REPlay,” proposed a 21st-century canon extending from Ravel to Bang on a Can; Thursday’s concert, “Hi/r/stories,” will encompass performance art and social activism.”

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Review

Album Review: Conrad Tao – “Voyages”

  • AllMusic.com

“Tao…has a new wrinkle, one he shares with few others and executes very well indeed. He is, like Rachmaninov and Liszt, a pianist/composer, and he is one of just a few figures exploring that role. The early indications are good. Tao’s own works, though brief, are quite engaging. With Meredith Monk’s ‘Railroad (Travel Song)’ opening the program and setting the tone for the clean, almost minimalist texture blocks of the whole, he offers four pieces called vestiges, with the humorously dissimilar titles “upon waking alongside green glass bottles,” “upon ripping perforated pages,” “upon being,” and “upon viewing two porcelain figures.” Even better is iridescence for piano and iPad... The Rachmaninov and Ravel pieces are ordered and performed in such a way as to fit with overall evanescent mood, and the program emerges with both imagination and real personality…an extremely promising new figure.”

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Review

First Listen: Conrad Tao, ‘Voyages’

  • NPR Music

“Not everyone gets to celebrate his or her 19th birthday the way Conrad Tao will: On June 11, he’ll release a major-label debut album and curate the first day of his own three-day new music festival in Brooklyn. But if any musician is primed for such a workload at this age, Tao might just be the one.”

“All of these honors are heady stuff, but it’s still fairly easy for the jaded to write off the whole thing as a “typical” trajectory for a classical wunderkind. But unlike many classical prodigies of similarly and stupendously young ages, Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means — as the thoughtful programming on this album, Voyages, proclaims.”

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Review

Album review: Conrad Tao, Voyages (EMI Classics)

  • The Independent

“Eighteen-year-old Chinese-American wunderkind Conrad Tao is a composer-pianist in the tradition of Liszt and Rachmaninov, blessed with prodigal performing skill and compositional imagination beyond his tender years.”

“Voyages is themed around dreams, with impressive renderings of Ravel’s creepy, crepuscular “Gaspard de la Nuit” and five Rachmaninov preludes alongside Tao’s own “vestiges”, four dream-inspired miniatures. Tao’s slightly florid immersion in the emotional depths of Rachmaninov’s preludes is balanced by the more postmodern tone of Meredith Monk’s rippling, rhythmic “Railroad (Travel Song)” and his own aptly titled “Iridescence”, a new piece for piano and iPad.”

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So What Will He Do When 20?

  • The New York Times

Conrad Tao, at Le Poisson Rouge

“Meet Conrad Tao. A composer, concert pianist and award-winning violinist, he also runs a festival in Brooklyn, Unplay, which starts on June 11. He will turn 19 that day…On Tuesday evening at Le Poisson Rouge Mr. Tao performed works for solo piano from his latest CD, “Voyages,” which will also be released on his birthday. While there was much to admire in his confident and sensitive playing, it was above all the program, with pieces by Rachmaninoff and Ravel,Meredith Monk and Mr. Tao himself, that conveyed the scope of his probing intellect and openhearted vision.”

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Virtuoso Conrad Tao carries Beethoven’s burden for Spokane Symphony

  • The Spokesman-Review

“Tao is not only an acclaimed pianist, but also an accomplished composer. He approached each work as a composer might, as a complete and coherent utterance, in which each phrase advanced the argument of the whole. To accomplish this through five enormous works requires terrific focus and stamina, both psychological and physical, which Tao possesses in abundance. Tao played the lengthy and difficult Concerto No. 1 in C major Op. 15 without a flaw: not a missed or imperfectly struck note, not a careless or routine phrase, not a poorly voiced chord.”

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At 18, pianist Tao shows deep and mature artistry in Beethoven

  • The Miami Herald

“On a Saturday afternoon in 2005, a 10-year-old pianist named Conrad Tao performed at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, one of two child prodigies presented in the Miami International Piano Festival.

This week Tao has returned to the same stage to play all five Beethoven piano concertos, and judging from his performance of the first three Monday night with Symphony of the Americas, he has brilliantly fulfilled his early promise. The mastery he displayed was more than the predictable brilliance of the grown-up prodigy, it was a performance that brought out the nobility, the eloquence and the dramatic power of these works.”

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Jaap van Zweden puts fresh manpower into Mahler

  • South China Morning Post

“Eighteen-year-old Chinese-American pianist Conrad Tao was the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No21. Excellently partnered by the orchestra, he generated some wonderful subtleties of phrasing during the opening movement, a light-as-air sense of line in the next and a different glint in the eye for every few bars of the finale.”

“He played Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No6 as an encore with impressive panache and musicianship. The rapt attention and half smiles on the orchestra’s faces said more than I can achieve in a few words here. The buzz in the interval was how his mix of virtuosity, eccentricity and showmanship came in just the right proportions, notwithstanding the red socks.”

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Pianist Conrad Tao dazzles in early SLSO debut

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Remember the name Conrad Tao. You’re going to be hearing a lot about him. Tao, who was to make his St. Louis Symphony Orchestra debut next season, stepped in to play Sergei Prokofiev’s tricky Piano Concerto No. 3 with the SLSO on less than three days’ notice, when an ailing Markus Groh had to cancel.”

“The Prokofiev is a big sweeping score that requires wit on the part of its interpreter while making intense technical demands. Tao flung it all off with insouciant ease and apparent enjoyment, in a real triumph that was fully supported and shared by the conductor and orchestra, in a score that’s a challenge for everyone. Tao’s flair and musicality won him a huge ovation, which he rewarded with an equally demanding encore.”

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Review: Tao, LSO performance enraptures audience

  • Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

“Guest pianist Conrad Tao alternated between pounding rhythms and familiar melodies that ran through Rachmaninoff’s 24 variations in the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Tao, an 18-year old Chinese American, played with intensity and control, at times seeming to curl into the keyboard and then lean back, nodding his head furiously to the beat..”

“Tao impressed the Lubbock audience, whose members jumped to their feet immediately after the piece and remained standing until his encore performance…Tao had it all — lyricism, drama and joy. One expects flashy technique from a young virtuoso, but he had poetry about him.”

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A touch of Tao with Pacific Symphony standards

  • The OC Register

“This was a youthful performance (in a good way), enthusiastic and strongly felt. At the same time, he revealed a real understanding of the score [Grieg’s Piano Concerto] in his crisply inflected and strongly sculpted fortissimos and effervescent scherzando playing. His phrasing was consistently alert and active, shaded and colored sensitively, but it never put on airs. The music was the thing. St.Clair and the orchestra supported him handsomely, and caught Tao’s fire.”

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Teen pianist ‘jaw dropping’ in Rachmaninoff with ASO

  • The Morning Call

“What lingered most was 18-year-old pianist Conrad Tao’s jaw-dropping performance in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3…Tao carefully shaped the work’s solemn opening with an even-tempered hand. Gradually, the waves of emotion welled, with seemingly endless, flawlessly executed arpeggios floating between patches of dreamy revelry.”

“Tao charted a dark, furious course through the first movement cadenza, then, hunched over the keyboard, rocking back and forth and occasionally humming to himself, he tackled the mood changes of the second with focused rapture.”

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Oklahoma City Philharmonic opens 24th season in grand fashion

  • The Oklahoman

“Musical precociousness can manifest itself in countless ways, from the gifted child who loves to boast about his accomplishments to those who channel their talents into more productive outcomes.

Conrad Tao clearly belongs to the latter group, a pianist of exceptional talent who made a spectacular debut on the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s 2012-13 season opener. In a lifetime of concertgoing, I’ve encountered many artists who use music to play the piano. Tao uses the piano to make music.”

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Concert Review: Conrad Tao gives Beethoven concerto intelligent treatment

  • Ottawa Citizen

“The concerto soloist was the 18-year-old Conrad Tao, a young man whose talent is well beyond the ordinary. His interpretation of Friday’s concerto was balanced and intelligent.He didn’t just toss off a bunch of notes, but neither did he plumb the score for depths it doesn’t possess. This is especially important in the slow movement where it is easy to drift into sentimentality and/or pretension.”

“The outer movements were executed with panache. The first movement cadenza was especially gratifying.”

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It’s a Wrap! Dvorak, Dvorak, Dvorak at the Montreal Chamber Fest

  • Strings Magazine

“Featuring a high-flying gaggle of Canadian quartets, the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony and a rare sighting of artistic director Denis Brott in his cellist’s chair. And yet, with all the strings, it was a 17-year-old keyboard polymath from NYC named Conrad Tao, who stole the show with a once-in-a-lifetime performance of the rarely-encountered American Suite, Op. 98.”

“Tao is ready for his own TV show: he plays music as if the composer were at his side, with color, joy and spontaneous poetry. He composes, studies, researches, writes. He uses words like “gestation” when he talks. Like that whiz kid on the West Coast, Conrad Tao should be licensed to operate by the time he’s 21.”

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Conrad Tao, prodigiously talented at 17, delights Gilmore Keyboard Festival crowd at Stetson Chapel

  • Kalamazoo Gazette

“The program began with Bach’s Italian Concerto. Tao gave the first movement concerto-like contrasts, crafted a stunning cantilena melody that hummed its way through the soulful slow movement, and concluded with a bravura finale. Next were Tao’s own compositions: the captivating “Three Songs” (2010), intended to decode the relationship between a vocal line and its accompaniment (a theme throughout the afternoon). The contemplative “Cocoon” featured a searching melody paired with luscious harmonies. “Smoke” evoked the impressionistic landscapes of Debussy and Ravel. Floating clouds of music collided and reformed as the melody gradually found peace. “Catharsis” was a riot of color and sonorities.”

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Gilmore Young Artist Conrad Tao gives stupendous performance in recital at Calvin College

  • Grand Rapids Press

“It was a stupendous performance, covering a considerable range of possibilities for the piano plus some 275 years of musical composition, including Tao’s own compositions. Gleaming Bach, graceful Chopin, mighty Liszt, and mind-boggling Stravinsky poured from Tao’s fingers for a full house in the new, 250-seat recital hall in Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center, a lovely room to the eye as well as the ear. The 18-year-old musician’s account of Igor Stravinsky’s “Three Scenes from Petrushka” was more than enough to show Tao had the talent and temperament for a major career.”

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A Promising Star, Rising Above the Horizon

  • The New York Times

“That Mr. Tao, who gave his first recital at 4, is hugely gifted was evident from the outset. He opened with a cleanly articulated, fluid and fleet rendition of Bach’s “Italian” Concerto. He played the slow second movement with poise and feeling. His impressive technique allows him to navigate difficult works with ease; the finale of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata unfolded in an exciting blaze of notes…He brought lovely colors and poetic nuances to three works by Liszt: “Au bord d’une Source,” “Vallée d’Obermann” and the “Rigoletto” Paraphrase…”

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Conrad Tao, 17, shows fully mature virtuosity in Rachmaninoff

  • The Classical Review

“Although [Tao] is clearly a master of the keyboard, his playing was so smooth and fluent that the difficulty of the work was never at the forefront; nor was there ever a hint of the look-how-hard-this-is virtuosity that marks the playing of some young keyboard phenoms. He could be grand, as in the sweeping swirls of notes that open the last movement, and his technical ability was apparent throughout, as he easily handled the rapid chords, runs and other challenges of a concerto composed by one of history’s great virtuosos. But it was his playing of Rachmaninoff’s melodic passages that really distinguished this performance, as Tao’s natural musicality brought out the concerto’s smoky, Romantic quality.”

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Utah Symphony Catches a Rising Star: Pianist Conrad Tao

  • Salt Lake Tribune

“Conrad Tao is for real. The 17-year-old American pianist, whose star has only grown brighter in the 15 months since he bowled over the Abravanel Hall crowd as a last-minute substitute for Horacio Gutiérrez in Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody, showed that his return invitation was well-earned. His bravura performance of another crowd-pleasing warhorse, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, elicited a rowdy ovation from the near-sellout house on Friday.”

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Piano phenom, 17, makes a blazing debut with the DSO

  • The Detroit News

“Whatever the age cut-off may be for child prodigies, 17-year-old pianist Conrad Tao has left that category somewhere back in his young past. To judge from his debut Saturday night with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Tao already owns a place among the world’s musical virtuosos. Prodigious he is indeed. To put it plainly, Tao blew the doors off Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor with a performance that was no less seductive in its lyrical beauty than hair-raising in its technical brilliance.”

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George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Conrad Tao Thrill at JSO Opening Concert

  • Season Ticket

“17-year-old Conrad Tao was the brilliant pianist for George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra. Tao is seasoned beyond his years and he was immediately immersed in the music and in his responsibility to interpret Gershwin’s piece to the audience… If anyone could pull off the Gershwin-esque flair, it was Tao. The young soloist was, in a word, impressive.”

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17-year-old Pianist Amazes at Cliburn Concerts

  • Dallas Morning News

“Tao isn’t yet old enough to enter the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, but in a very substantial program at Bass Performance Hall he demonstrated surer technical command and more probing musicianship than most of the competition’s oldest contestants. This is a major talent. Rarely has Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata had a more gripping performance, by turns mysterious and defiant. The mere chords of the second-movement theme were balanced with exquisite sensitivity to harmonic implications.”

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Conrad Tao Dazzles Cliburn Audience

  • Dallas Magazine

“he continually uncovered the energy and emotional underpinnings inherent in this music, reaching toward the timeless, universal qualities it contains… Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata was equally breathtaking… [as was] his ability, through subtle give and take of tempo, to make these works of Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and even Stravinsky sing.”

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Conrad Tao: Prodigious talent on display at Chinese Embassy

  • The Washington Post

” Tao, though, is indeed a remarkably gifted young man. After opening with three Debussy preludes, he gave the premiere of his own “Three Songs” — well-constructed miniatures exploiting different moods and textures on the piano.”

“As a pianist, Tao is also mature beyond his years. His platform demeanor is unself-conscious and totally focused on the music.”

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Crowd rhapsodic over teen’s Rach

  • The Salt Lake Tribune

“Sixteen-year-old American pianist Conrad Tao won several hundred Utah fans Friday night with his energetic performance of Rachmaninoff’s beloved “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” In fact, Tao’s dazzling finger work got an even noisier ovation from the Abravanel Hall crowd than superstar Hilary Hahn did with her splendid Tchaikovsky a couple of weeks ago.”

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Spaced-Out Mussorgsky

  • San Francisco Classical Voice

“Next came the musical highlight of the concert: pianist Conrad Tao’s dazzling rendition of Maurice Ravel’s Concerto in G Major. If NASA had a tenth of his talent, they’d be farming strawberries on Titan by now.”

“The first movement was full of thrills: laser-sharp articulation and accuracy, powerful glissandos (does Tao have bionic, metallic hands?), and, what’s more, heartfelt expression.”

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Rumors are true about Conrad Tao

  • San Francisco Chronicle

“Tao’s skills as a keyboard artist would be impressive enough just on their own, and his musicianship only grew more striking as the afternoon went on. His technique seems to have no fault or flaw … he employs that dexterity in the service of a deep and evocative interpretive sensibility.”

“But to witness a young artist take the stage not just as a performer, but as a composer too – that was a whole different level of astonishment. As part of his recital program, Tao gave the U.S. premiere of his “Fantasy-Sonata,” a 16-minute piano extravaganza that seemed tailor-made for his brand of explosive virtuosity.”

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The Tao of Early Musical Success

  • The Wall Street Journal

“In Mozart’s dark-hued Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, Mr. Tao showed appealing freshness in his use of telling, expressive details that distinguish one interpretation from the next — a slight decrescendo here, a change of tonal color there, a heartfelt response to the piece… And his onstage demeanor was refreshingly free of willful tempo changes, distracting theatrical gestures and other prodigy personality excesses.”

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Wunderkind Conrad Tao, Ponti and Russian National Orchestra combine for spectacular musical magic at Festival del Sole

  • Napa Valley Register

“Conrad Tao. Remember that name.

An awestruck audience at Monday night’s Festival del Sole concert in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater certainly will.

Substituting for ailing Italian pianist Fabio Bidini, Tao — native of Urbana, Ill., who recently celebrated his 13th birthday — delivered a mouth-dropping performance of Serge Prokofiev’s “Piano Concerto No. 3 in C” that festivalgoers will be talking about for years to come.”

“His command of one of the classical repertoire’s most difficult works was simply amazing.”

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