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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.“


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.”


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.”


Album Review: Conrad Tao – “Voyages”


“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.”