Anyone who has heard Conrad Tao, either in recital or on his newly released CD, Voyages, won’t have any trouble understanding how this bright young pianist and composer has racked up serious accolades: among them, ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award (eight times), the Gilmore Foundation’s Young Artist Award and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. The only classical musician cited by Forbes in its 2011 “30 Under 30” list, Tao turns 19 on June 11, a milestone he’ll celebrate at the helm of the Unplay Festival, which he funded with proceeds from several of his prestigious prizes.
The festival, to be held at the powerHouse Arena in Dumbo, is fairly compact in its first outing, limited to a manageable three programs. What’s really impressive, though, is how much territory Tao and his collaborators manage to cover, and how cleverly it’s all arranged. Tuesday’s program, “ePhemera,” focuses on the interface of musicians and technology. Tao steers his chamber ensemble, Sriracha, through his own pieces and works by Tristan Perich, Phil Kline and others, sharing the bill with Sideband, a young combo spun off from the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, and the well-seasoned duo of violinist Todd Reynolds and digital composer R. Luke DuBois.
“REPlay,” the program on Wednesday, brings together Sriracha, Face the Music and Iktus to chart a workable contemporary repertoire: Ravel, Messiaen, Cage, Glass, Reich and onward. And on June 13, Tao welcomes the genre-flouting, excess-flaunting multimedia artists of thingNY and Panoply Performance Laboratory. In sum: a festival as authoritative as everything we’ve come to expect of Tao.—Steve Smith
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