Five years ago, after being wowed by Conrad Tao’s performance, Curtis and I had the great fortune to spend some time afterward with this marvelous pianist. In these moments, we were able to glean some insight into his thoughts on music. Subsequently, Curtis followed him closely on YouTube, in the New York Times, and elsewhere on the internet. In various online interviews, Conrad eloquently discusses his career path, which he has forged on his own terms.
Conrad’s new CD, American Rage, was released on Warner Classics last week, and having already taken it in, I am captivated once again. A brand new YouTube video, in which he discusses this project, showcases his intelligence, self-expression, and articulateness as well as his dazzling pianism. He has an individual voice and is willing to experiment. What appeals to me personally is that Conrad brings new music to his listeners. We live in the present, and we should hear composers of our own time alongside the warhorses of the past. I am looking forward to all of the new music on his upcoming program. I only wish he had programmed one of his own compositions; perhaps we can convince him to play one of them as an encore.
As stated in national press, Conrad is in the vanguard of taking classical music into the future—and is a force to be watched and to appreciate. I admire that he has chosen his own direction and not gone for the big splash and fame and name recognition from the start. I am thrilled to hear him in Corvallis again.
~Walter A. Frankel
Walter Frankel’s love of serious music began at age four or five. Taking various lessons—violin, then piano, then organ, then voice—into his teens, he was 31 when he finally acquired a piano and began serious instruction. A dozen years later he moved to Philadelphia to be with Curtis, where they had two pianos and a harpsichord—none of which was played much. With a particular love for opera and orchestral music, Walter has always pondered why certain works have become part of the standard repertoire while others have been overlooked. Moving to Corvallis gave Walter the opportunity to engage with chamber music and piano music. Also drawn to Broadway musical theater, pop, folk, jazz, and rock, he has wide-ranging tastes and is always eager to hear what’s new. When working out, he almost always chooses piano music to exercise to—“and the only thing better than one piano is two!”
Conrad Tao’s performance as part of the 2019–2020 Corvallis-OSU Piano International Steinway Series is sponsored by Walter Frankel in memory of his husband, Corvallis-OSU Piano International board officer Curtis Kiefer.