Conrad Tao’s “sharp and dramatic” Summer Festival Reviews
Conrad Tao made his Tanglewood and Boston Symphony debuts this summer playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major.
“Youthful Conrad Tao took command from the opening whip crack, his glissandos sharp and dramatic, the thematic statements firm, alternating with tender lyrical passages, then suddenly dynamic, rhythmic, driven. All the while Chang led the orchestra masterfully as full partners in the interplay, piano and orchestra feeding off each other as in a jazz improvisation. Toward the end of the movement, softness and silence became as dramatic as the earlier, louder dynamics had been, culminating in a dramatic pianistic flourish with a sarcastic orchestral response. Tao stated the long, flowing opening statement of the Adagio straightforwardly, but at the same time sadly and thoughtfully while conveying some joy at the possibility of memory, aria-like but restrained. Chang allocated emotional expressiveness largely to the orchestra, inviting it to swell to a crisis, which Tao’s piano then contained and transformed, fading it gently into pianissimo trills. As if drawing strength from wisdom harvested through the introspective adagio, the forces gave the Presto finale an energetic, purposeful, and improvisational, feeling with abrupt staccato chords, rhythmic drive, chaotic swirling building to a pianistic frenzy, ending exactly where it had begun. In homage to Elliot Carter, whom he evoked as haunting the grounds of Tanglewood, Tao encored with a spectacular performance of Caténaires, composed when Carter was 98 years old.”
The Boston Music Intelligencer (read the full review).
“The evening’s most exciting moments belonged to pianist Conrad Tao, a confident young magician at the keyboard for Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. Tao made his BSO and Tanglewood debuts with this program as a replacement for Ingrid Fliter, who was advised not to fly during her pregnancy. With any luck this sparkling performance will punch Tao’s BSO return ticket. Technically, he nailed the short concerto’s acrobatic and lyric episodes, with his temperament flashing between effusive and reflective. He ditched his jacket before coming out for an encore; as soon as he launched into Elliott Carter’s chromatic whirlwind “Caténaires,” it was clear why.”
The Boston Globe (read the full review).
“A career that resists sound bites”
The Boston Globe (read the full story).
Conrad Tao also made his Cleveland Orchestra debut at the Blossom Music Festival playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with conductor Jahja Ling.
“When it comes to Blossom, there’s just something special about Ling. More than almost anyone else in the Cleveland Orchestra family, he embodies the warm, light-hearted mood of the festival and the cheery, collegial aura that often leads to memorable performances.”
“Technique? Tao had it in spades. He may have sighed with relief before his encore, a transcription of the Largo from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 3, but he reveled in the challenge, finding warmth, nuance, and haunting expression never in the knuckle-busting fury of Prokofiev did the pianist show the slightest sign of yielding. Indeed, where many see little more than virtuoso display. Tao clinched his victory with a ferocious but still sparkling third movement. For this listener, however, the highlight was the Andantino. In close touch with a remarkably responsive orchestra, Tao ably guided his listeners through the eerie, twisted thicket that is a set of variations, conversing gently with his colleagues all the way. Never mind the fireworks. That was the glory of Blossom.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (read the full review).