Tuesday, May 21, 2019

My New Love

I just returned from a short music-and-art trip to Los Angeles with fifty other people, most of whom were seventy-plus years old and . . . tah-dah . . . I have an announcement:  

I'm in love . . .

with a performer! His name is Conrad Tao and he’s twenty-five years old. I returned from my trip last night, unpacked, ate a frozen dinner, watched a couple of pre-recorded TV shows, then fell into my own bed to sleep nine hours. When awoke, I lay there for a while, reflecting on the delicious jam-packed trip with three-full days of art and music in the company of many fascinating and nice people—led by a gracious and delightful tour leader, Norm Hollingshead. But my thoughts quickly turned to Conrad Tao, so over my morning coffee I reached for my iPad. 

Subsequently, I’ve spent much of the morning, between loads of laundry and breakfast, sobbing in front of my iPad as I watched him perform his musical enchantment close-up.Those tears have made me feel like a thirteen-year-old again, springing from the same passion I felt in eighth grade when, for the very first time, I grasped how the performance of music, with its fusing talent, technique, intellect, and emotion, turns into something greater than the parts. Apparently when an artist touches that chord in me, that soft spot, I fall in love . . . and cry.

My love back then was Pablo Casals—an old man of eighty—triggering emotions in me that had never been tapped. It was his visceral reading of the music in which he occasionally, audibly expressed his emotions as he played his cello that got to me. I knew him only from his recordings (in the days before Internet), but he could be heard sometimes humming over the music, spontaneously joining his cello's [and his chamber-music colleagues in their] execution of Schubert, Dvorak, Schumann, and Bach. That sound—an old man’s involuntary surge of vocalization—prompted my own emotional response (yes, the same as today, sobbing through the music), and I became his lifelong fan. 

Not surprisingly, few peers back then shared my adoration. Maybe no one else reacts that way, but there's a trigger point for me in terms of emotional override. Over the years I’ve felt similarly about other cellists—Yo Yo Ma, and more recently Joshua Roman. But this is the first pianist who's generated that feeling in all my seventy-nine years!

Watch his performance filmed in a special studio by New York’s WQXR on www.conrad.tao.com. Listen to his interview, as well. Not only is he a spectacular musician (both pianist and composer), but like Casals, his body emulates the music as he executes the work. I love that he’s barely begun his career at age twenty five. Not only is he a pianist, he’s also a composer, and . . ..  I’ll stop lest I embarrass myself with too much raving. 

See and listen for yourself. Ironically, when I booked the trip with Norm Hollingshead’s Opera Plus Tours, we were going to hear Lang Lang perform Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. But Lang Lang’s tendinitis prompted a replacement for that work and Conrad Tao was the artist chosen for the honor. What a serendipitous event!

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