horizontal line

For the Chinese-American pianist Conrad Tao, born in 1994, various means of voyaging inspired this jumble of disparate works, from Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit – played with passionate mastery here – to a tedious minimalist tea-doily by Meredith Monk. Tao himself is a vastly better composer than Monk, preoccupied with investigating textures of all kinds. His Iridescence for Piano and IPAD involves him fiddling on the tablet computer to attain a mechanical background rhythm, upon which he layers liquid notes and even some backhand slaps to the piano just above the manufacturer’s name. Tao’s Vestiges is even more overtly dynamic, to the point where the last movement, Upon Viewing Two Porcelain Figures, makes the listener worry about the safety of that porcelain. In the section of Vestiges grandly titled Upon Being, the composer seems somewhat overwhelmed by his metaphysical aims, producing a less personalised-sounding statement.

Tao’s Rachmaninov is elegantly pleasing, but as one of the 21st century’s most gifted musicians, he should be recording music by Haydn, Brahms, Berg, Lutosławski, Kurtág, Perle et al. Confused CD booklet notes that oddly paraphrase Tao’s ideas, rather than allowing him to state them directly, hint that he worships the Icelandic pop artist Björk. Tao is only 19 and in no danger of appearing on stage in a swan costume, but he might consider taking a break from the iPad and the other trappings of today’s digital era and seeking something a little more lasting.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


   Read full review   


To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.



Read more classical music reviews online here:



Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing