by Rena Ling, PSO Contributor
We first met Conrad Tao & his family in 2010 when, under the auspices of the Vancouver Recital Society & their dynamic Artistic Director, Leila Getz, our son, cellist Nathan Chan and Canadian violinist Timothy Chooi were brought together for a special concert at the Chan Centre in Canada. It was an exciting collaboration. Leila Getz hand picked the 3 young teens (coincidentally all 16 years old at the time), brought them to Vancouver a week early to rehearse & be coached by James Parker of the acclaimed Gryphon Trio and presented them to great acclaim as soloists & in ensemble in a grand finale performance of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor. To this day, Leila still calls this project “one of the best projects I’ve ever been involved with”. A couple years later, Conrad & Nathan would meet up again in college at the Columbia/Juilliard program in NYC and Timothy Chooi would be nearby at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (Timmy’s big brother is PSO & Klein Competition favorite, Nikki Chooi).
While in Columbia, Nathan & Conrad would continue to collaborate in both formal & informal settings. Informal – as in 3am sight-reading sessions of Piano & Cello Sonatas (probably after a little too much dormitory partying — but as a parent, I don’t need to know all details of that…) and formal, when Nathan was invited to be part of Conrad’s first curated, cutting edge 3-Day New Music Festival “Unplay” which also celebrated his 19th birthday and the release of his first album “Voyages” on EMI Classics.
Nathan shared with me one of the most exciting things about performing with Conrad is that his internal sense of rhythm is so innate that it transmits wordlessly and he knows exactly what is the most important thing you need to hear in the music. My husband & I recently went to hear Conrad play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini with the San Francisco Symphony and I can whole-heartedly agree with Nathan’s statement from an audience viewpoint. There is that primal sense of rhythm and moreover, it is interesting to note that Conrad Tao, the Pianist and Conrad Tao, the Composer are inseparable – Conrad interprets from the profound perspective of a composer, understanding in intent emotionally, harmonically, melodically, & rhythmic propulsion. The intellect in undeniable. You can hear it in the playing.
Watching Conrad’s career has been an honor. I’m so glad the Peninsula Symphony audience will have a chance to catch this rising star.