Conrad Tao to release new album: Mussorgsky reframed for the 21st century
On 9 October, pianist-composer Conrad Tao will release his new album Pictures, the anticipated follow-up to Voyages, his “spiky debut” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker). The new recording features Modest Mussorgsky’s monumental Pictures at an Exhibition, re-envisioned through the 21-year-old Tao’s “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” (The New York Times) and reframed by music written over the past 30 years: Elliott Carter’s TwoThoughts About The Piano, Tōru Takemitsu’s Les yeux clos ii, David Lang’s cage and wed, and the world-premiere recording of a new work by Tao himself, a “thoughtful and mature composer” (NPR) in his own right.
“These are all particular, deliberate pieces that use images as a springboard in order to consider memory in all its difficult complexity,” he explains the programme.
Tao’s own composition, A Walk (for Emilio), is dedicated to one of his earliest piano teachers, Emilio del Rosario, who died in 2010. “I sometimes imagine spending time with him today. I imagine the two of us sharing the various things we’ve both done since I moved away; I imagine the two of us talking about music as we always did. A Walk (for Emilio) is about those imagined memories. It alternates between ambling, freely lyrical passages and anxious, pleading, yearning chords.”
The album ends as it begins, with music from fellow NYC-based composer David Lang. Tao notes the juxtaposition within the album closer wed: “Lang asks for the piece to be performed ‘with almost no expression’, yet the piece feels tender and shot through with emotion. These contradictions are crucial to the piece’s strange, almost alien beauty. Inspired by a devastatingly poignant image – a wedding taking place at a deathbed – it captures a particularly fragile balance between joy and suffering.
“Maybe that’s what this album is ultimately about: in the face of loss and hopelessness, finding and celebrating precious glimmers of humanity.”
Tao will launch the album on 12 October in New York with an intimate performance at the Lower East Side venue Spectrum, hosted by Groupmuse. He will also perform the Pictures repertoire at Boston radio station WCRB’s Fraser Studio, where the album was recorded.
02 December 2013
Watch Conrad Tao's performance on ARTE
Conrad Tao's performances start at 16:00 and 28:35.
Voyages - Conrad Tao's debut album on EMI Classics
Voyages evolves around the concept of images shifting and changing. Conrad begins the album with the first recording of the minimalist work Railroad (Travel Song) from 1981 by Meredith Monk, whose music has had a strong influence on Conrad. Railroad sets the stage for the sound worlds to follow. Next come five Rachmaninov Preludes, two of them popular, the other three less so. Conrad says these five short works “operate as little snapshots into brief musical worlds and fit beautifully with the idea of vestigial images.” He deliberately performs them out of order to encourage listeners to hear them differently.
Voyages will be released on June 10. To find out more about the album click here.
19 April 2013
Conrad Tao's UNPLAY Festival at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena
Conrad Tao’s UNPLAY Festival takes place between June 11 and 13 at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena. It aims to examine the musician’s changing role in contemporary culture in the post-microblog/tweet/story age. Performers will include Conrad himself, Face the Music, Iktus Percussion, Sideband, thingNY and Todd Reynolds, among others.
"His promise is limitless" - Conrad Tao's debut album on EMI Classics
Conrad Tao is the most exciting prodigy to ever come my way. His promise is limitless.
Harris GoldsmithHarris Goldsmith
"I'm thrilled to be releasing Voyages as my full-length debut with EMI Classics,” says Conrad, “These are all works I feel deeply passionate about, and I am excited to share them with listeners this June.” Voyages features works by Ravel, Rachmaninov and Meredith Monk, as well as two of Conrad Tao’s own compositions: vestiges, for solo piano, and iridescence, for piano and iPad. The iTunes exclusive bonus tracks are Conrad’s improvisations on the Beach Boys songs I Know There’s an Answer and Surf’s Up. As both performer and composer, Conrad Tao’s work crosses boundaries.