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A Red-Hot Classical Musician at the Ripe Age of 21

Conrad Tao has been playing music for close to two decades – and he’s only 21. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on this pianist and composer, who now has over a dozen compositions, a busy career performing throughout the world, and a position as artist-in-residence at the Dallas Symphony.

Listen to Conrad Tao talk with WRTI's Susan Lewis about the role music has played in his life.

Listen to pianist composer Conrad Tao talk about his musical exploration of memory in his CD, Pictures, which features Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, as well as music by David Lang, Toru Takemitsu, Elliot Carter, and Tao himself.

Radio script: 

Susan Lewis: Whether performing live or recording, Conrad Tao likes to put together works from different eras or styles, teasing out connections not obvious at first. He often starts recital programs with CAGE by David Lang.

Conrad Tao: Basically just a tremolo between two notes...It's such a weightless piece, it lifts you out of your expectations. 

SL: It’s also included on Conrad Tao’s CD, Pictures – an exploration of memory that is anchored by Pictures at an Exhibition, written by Mussorgsky after the sudden death of artist Victor Hartman.

CT: It's about capturing the essence of the images to celebrate something larger in the essence of a person.

SL:  This exploration of memory includes Tao’s own composition, A Walk (for Emilio), in memory of Tao’s former teacher, Emilio del Rosario. 

CT: It's about this imagined memory. What would it be like to spend time with someone who is not there anymore?  It’s a strange cocktail of things – there's anger, frustration, grief. It’s muddy and difficult. I wanted to write a piece that felt honest to that.

SL:  Pictures is on the Warner Classics label. Tao’s other recordings include the music of Debussy, Stravinsky, and Mozart. 

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.