Schumann’s Fourth Symphony comprised the end of the Utah Symphony program on Oct. 8, but the highlight of the evening came before intermission when 16-year-old piano prodigy Conrad Tao (pictured) wowed the crowd with his performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”
Since Tao has probably spent thousands of hours alone in a room playing piano and violin--he’s also a virtuoso on that instrument--you’d think he would be a total geek of a teen. Instead, he comes off as handsome and confident, the sort of guy who could play Cole Porter tunes at a party while stealing somebody’s girlfriend if he wanted. A group of teenage girls sitting behind me was gushing about him the way they would David Archuletta. He plays the piano with tremendous physicality and flair, with shoulders and legs moving all over the place.
Tao’s performance drew such a response from the crowd that, after the third encore, guest conductor Mario Venzago gave him the sign to play something else, so Tao sat down, thanked the crowd, and promptly knocked off Stravinsky’s “Petrushka.” Shame on those who cut out right after the Rachmaninoff was finished to try to beat the intermission bathroom lines.
Review by Geoff Griffin