I usually don’t write about the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra’s concerts because I am too close to the performers and managers to be either objective or frank. But last night’s performance by Conrad Tao with the LSO was so out of the ordinary that I have to mention it. Tao is an 18 year old wunderkind . Born in Urbana Illinois in 1994, his achievements would be remarkable for one four times his age. For his full bio go here. Not only is he a piano virtuoso, but he also plays the violin. He once gave a concert where he played Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto #1 and the same composer’s Violin Concerto. He’s still a student – at both Columbia and Julliard.
Last night Tao played Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. His combination of awe inspiring technique and pianistic poetry has me reaching back to both Rubinstein and Horowitz. At the conclusion of the piece the usually restrained Lubbock audience went wild. It was the kind of response that might be expected at a rare Texas Tech football triumph. As an encore Tao played Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #6. I feared for the piano’s survival. It’s not as young as it used to be. But somehow it made it through alive despite Tao’s hand and foot assault. Again the audience was delirious.
Tao not only performs he also composes. For his second encore he played one of his own compositions – Catharsis. Most teenagers may be acting out catharsis, but they don’t know the word or its definition. They certainly aren’t composing an intricate piano piece expressing it. In short, Tao is a remarkable artist who’s future appears cosmic. If he comes your way don’t miss him.