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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”