Lenox — On the evening of Conrad Tao’s August 2019 Tanglewood debut, the young pianist walked onto the Shed stage loaded for bear and proceeded to demolish Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. Who would have guessed he was substituting that night for Ingrid Fliter? (Not the crowd, if the noise they made is any indication.) Now, in a recital performance shot last June in Studio E of Tanglewood’s Linde Center for Music and Learning, Tao presents his own program, a diverse set of pieces — by Felipe Lara, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Tania León, David Lang, and Mr. Tao himself — bookending Beethoven’s 17th piano sonata, “Tempest.”
Ludwig van Beethoven’s works for piano are a far cry from the music of American ultramodernist Ruth Crawford Seeger or the dark, questing atmosphere of Tao’s own “All I had forgotten or tried to.” And yet Tao’s piece seems to have a few things in common with “Tempest”: its turn-on-a-dime, Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings; its erratic dynamic contours; its love of the instrument; its adamance.
Conrad Tao likes music with a lot of open space in it — room to breathe, room to reflect, room to feel — and he plays even the most abstract pieces with real heart. So you never have to wonder if he means it, and you probably can’t say that about every pianist you’ve heard perform at Tanglewood.
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Running time: One hour and five minutes.
This video will be available for streaming through Saturday, Aug. 22, at bso.org.