Hollywood comes to Rome Conrad Tao with Sir Tony and his Merry Band

Conrad Tao takes Rome by storm aided and abetted by Sir Tony and his merry band.
Very interesting juxtaposition of Schonberg with Gershwin at S.Cecilia last night.
They were great friends “Gershowitz” having helped Schonberg settle in the USA when he fled  the nazi persecution in Europe in 1933.
They often used to play tennis together, the 61 year old Schonberg with the 38 year old Gershwin in Beverley Hills in California where Gershwin had moved to work in Hollywood.
Keeping in contact via their mutual friend Oscar Levant,the pianist.
They even painted each others portrait and when Gershwin died tragically young in 1937 Schonberg was the first to celebrate his friend on the American radio.
”What he has reached is not only of benefit to America but is a great contribution to music worldwide.”

Gershwin portrait of Schonberg
It was Nadia Boulanger,the great French pedagoge,advisor to so many composers from Copland to Boulez, that when approached by Gershwin for lessons she turned him away saying she did not want to ruin his great natural talent.
And so it was that after a sumptuous performance by the strings of Sir Antonio Pappano’s magnificent orchestra we were treated to the big band.
These magnificently versatile musicians were led on by Conrad Tao who let us have the full works with no holes barred.
The scene was set by a superlative Alessandro Carbonare,whose cat like wail on the clarinet that opens the Rhapsody in Blue far outshone the legendary Benny Goodman.
Aided and abetted of course by Sir “Tony” who after his superb West Side Story that opened the season could not wait to show us what his “band” could do when they were allowed to let their hair down.
Rockin’ in the aisles indeed!
This magnificent orchestra one of the few where all the players listen to each other and are only guided by the conductor who allows them all the freedom that great artists need.
Sir Antonio overseeing the whole picture with his superbly expressive gestures.
This early work Verklarte Nacht by Schonberg was written at the age of 25 and later revised in 1917 and 1942.The first performance was in 1902 and its 30 minutes of sumptuous music in five parts is based on the poem by Richard Dehmal.
A real showpiece for string orchestra and in this orchestra’s hands it was a real show of chamber music on a grand scale.
The extraordinary performance by Simone Briatore on the viola cannot go unnoticed even though Carlo Maria Pezzoli and Luigi Piovano were superb too.
Thirty minutes of music wonderfully shaped into an expressive whole by Sir Antonio Pappano.
And so after the interval we are transported to the world of Hollywood.
A young american came flying on stage looking like one of the characters out of the Bronx in West Side Story.
I do not know this pianist but after hearing him tear through Rhapsody in Blue with such electricity and dynamic participation I was eager to go on his web site to see who this slender young man is who  can send such shock waves through the hall.
“Ferociously talented”……. “probing intellect and open hearted vision” is how he is rightly described by the American press.
The former was evident from tonight’s “tiger on the keys”performance.The sublime encore of the Largo from the 3rd suite for solo violin by J.S, Bach showed the latter ,I can only imagine in his own transcription?
He was awarded the prestigious Gilmore Young Artists prize in 2011 ( a prize that is given by a board that listen unknown to artists over a season and give a large sum to further a career to the chosen one that they consider exceptional)
He was born in Urbana Illinois in 1994 and studied piano in Chicago with Emilio de Rosario and in New York with Yoleved Kaplinsky and composition with Christropher Teofanidis.

Leonard Bernstein an exhibition of photos taken in Rome where he was a favourite for many years via his lifelong friendship with Francesco Siciliani who launched him with Callas in the 50’s and after directing the Maggio Musicale for so many years returned home to Rome to be artistic director of S.Cecilia.
It was obvious that piano was a means to express his very individual musicianship that was bubbling inside him and that he just could not wait to share the excitement of discovery with us.
He threw himself into the music just as Bernstein used to.
With a total involvement and showmanship that is unique ………….it maybe too much for some but the electricity that is generated in the hall is very invigorating and a change from the more sedate performances that we are too often used to.
Of course the piano was in shreds at the end but the Gladiator had won.
His beautiful Bach encore brought us down to earth and a wish to hear more of this young man.
The piano was already out of tune,of course from his superb onslaught in Rhapsody in Blue.
Genius is hard to define but when it strikes it hits hard.
Not always convenient or under control it is a vital flame of total dedication that is eating inside the chosen few .Of course with the right training it can be channeled and kept under control but it is not easy to live with!

Tao introducing his encore
Mustonen,Cascioli,Trifonov all have this “nasty illness”in Carmassi’s wise words.
Trifonov has managed to keep his under control in public performance and is a great pianist as well as being a composer .If you talk to him about music his mind goes faster than his words though.
Richter of course had that sacred flame as did Bernstein , Rostpropovich or Callas.
Technically Conrad Tao does not have the mastery of Richter or Trifonov.He lacks that weight or real depth of sound that he substitutes with his cat like energy and total conviction.
I fear hours at the piano are not for the likes of him where total absorbtion with all forms of music are evidently what interest him as you can see below.
But when you let the cat out of the bag in the right repertoire as tonight he is ready to pounce and it is enthralling.
Conrad Tao begins his 2018-19 season on September 27 & 28 with the World Premiere of Everything Must Go, commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic. Written as a “curtain raiser” before Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, the commission is a continuation of years of collaboration between Conrad and the Phil’s new music director, Jaap van Zweden.
Conrad also inaugurates Nightcap, a new series at the Philharmonic where performers curate a late-night concert in the Kaplan Penthouse. He’ll be joined by dancer-choreographer Caleb Teicher and Charmaine Lee for an evening of multidisciplinary performances.
Conrad makes his LA Opera debut in the West Coast premiere of David Lang’s new work, the loser, where he plays the onstage role of the apparition and memory of Glenn Gould. Continuing to expand his multidisciplinary projects, Conrad and dancer-choreographer Caleb Teicher will continue to develop More Forever, their evening-length work, for a premiere in January 2019, exploring American vernacular dance traditions with Conrad performing his new score for piano and electronics. The work will be previewed this fall as part of Guggenheim’s Works & Process series.
Throughout the season, Conrad continues to perform concertos with orchestras around the world, including returns to the Swedish Radio Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with Antonio Pappano. Conrad also performs duo chamber music concerts with violinist Stefan Jackiw, including a debut performance at 92Y, ensemble engagements with the JCT Trio in Seoul, South Korea, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Interlochen, Michigan, as well as solo recital programs.
A magnificent performance of An American in Paris from this superb orchestra played with such energy and real sense of swing.An orchestra that with Sir Antonio at the helm for years has become one of the finest orchestras on the world stage.
Not only conducting but also playing chamber music with them has created a bond between them of friends making music together.
Quite unique in this age where orchestras are used to playing with so many different conductors with allarming regularity .

Sir Antonio ever generous with his friends and colleagues.

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