- 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.”More