Acclaimed pianist will open Mobile Chamber Music season Sunday, September 17, 2006
By THOMAS B. HARRISON Arts Editor
Tao Lin says he didn't have much choice in becoming a pianist -- his mother and father were professors of piano at the conservatory in his hometown of Shanghai, China. "They thought I had some talent," Lin says by long distance from Boca Raton, Fla., where he is a member of the staff at Lynn University Conservatory. "I started playing at 3Â˝." At 8 he entered the Shanghai conservatory and never looked back. The young pianist subsequently won numerous competitions including the Alexander Tcherepnin Award, and as a soloist went on to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony, Miami Chamber Orchestra, Knoxville Civic Orchestra and University of Miami Symphony. Acclaimed for his sensitivity and brilliant technique, Lin is a devoted chamber musician and a founding member, along with the Jacques Thibaud String Trio, of the Berlin Piano Quartet. Lin also has collaborated with respected soloists such as Ida Haendel, Charles Castleman, Roberta Peters, Eugenia Zukerman, Philip Quint and Sergiu Schwartz. Whatever the setting, chamber or concert stage, Lin says he enjoys the experience. "I love them all," he says. "Personally, as a pianist, chamber music is so very important because so many of us close ourselves up in the practice room. ... A pianist is not instinctively a team player, so I think for a pianist to play chamber music helps in many ways -- to listen and communicate with your fellow musicians as well as the audience." Tao Lin brings his talent and enthusiasm to Mobile next weekend when Mobile Chamber Music opens its 46th season with the Alma and Anthony Fisher Memorial Concert at 3 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center Recital Hall at the University of South Alabama. The first half of the program will feature Haydn's Piano Sonata in C major, and Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op 58; after intermission Lin will perform Chopin's Four Mazurkas, Op. 68, Franz Schubert's "Impromptu," Op. 142 No. 3 in B flat major, and Mily Balakirev's "Islamey." "I like to play music from as many different time periods as possible," Lin says. "I have the greatest respect for someone who does an all-Beethoven program, but want to include as many styles as possible."
He says the Haydn opener is "one of the great works from his last period of (piano) composition." The addition of Chopin makes the first half of the program "rather lengthy" but impressive. The second half begins with the last four mazurkas by Chopin, and the legend is that the fourth was the composer's last, which he dictated from his deathbed. "The mazurkas are tricky little dance pieces played in the beat of three, (and) you can't play them like a waltz because they are very much like a folk dance, with the emphasis on the second or third beat -- it's always fun to play them." "Islamey" will bring the afternoon concert to a dramatic conclusion, according to Lin. "You always want conclude with something exciting and virtuosic," he says, "and that one certainly fills the bill." One of the most demanding pieces in the piano repertoire, the spirited work has "an almost Mongolian flavor, with dense rhythms and tons of notes to handle," Lin says. Lin's honors include top prizes in the competitions of the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Music Teacher's National Association and the Palm Beach International Invitational. He was a finalist in the first International Piano e-Competition and the first Osaka International Chamber Music Competition as a member of the Shanghai Trio. He has worked with distinguished teachers including Leon Fleisher, Joseph Kalichstein, John Perry, Rita Sloan, Stephen Hough, Ivan Davis and Roberta Rust. His recordings for the Piano Lovers record label include works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Balakirev. Lin's appearance in Mobile opens a prestigious 46th season for Mobile Chamber Music. The scheduling process is organic, says Dan Silver, first vice president of the board. "Programming seems like a circus act," he says. "Artists' fees, performance dates and musical styles fly around until that final moment of decision. "We got very lucky with the juggling this year. Several of the groups, such as Trio Con Brio and the Ying Quartet, are young winners of major competitions. The other performers are in the top echelon of classical music." Silver says the organization receives "bundles" of recordings from management firms. "Among the young pianists represented, Tao Lin most impressed us," he says. "His live performance of Schubert sonatas showed such sympathy and understanding of the music that the decision to present him was easy." ?Trio con Brio, featuring piano, cello and violin, recently won the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award jointly sponsored by 20 major presenters nationwide, according to Silver. "During the next two years they will perform for these presenters at venues such as Carnegie Hall," he says. "According to their manager, sponsors pay huge sums in advance just to guarantee that whoever wins will play on their series. She added, 'And you want them on a Sunday afternoon. I admire your chutzpah!'"
Dorian Wind Quintet, which will perform Nov. 5, was on the series years ago and audience loved them, Silver says. The group was founded at Tanglewood in 1961 and is in its fifth decade. "We have tried several times to get them back, but scheduling problems kept preventing it," he says. "This year we will succeed." One of the season's major events will be a performance by guitarist Eliot Fisk, who comes to town Feb. 11. "Classical guitar is a small but vibrant constellation in the classical music galaxy," says Silver, "and Eliot Fisk is one of its very brightest stars. The undisputed master of classical guitar, Andres Segovia, drew early attention to Fisk by pronouncing him 'at the top of our artistic world.' "Fisk collaborated with the great Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick at Yale back in the 1980s. Fisk's recordings of Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas were sensational, and they attracted many fans. I was, and remain, one of them." Silver says that during the past few seasons Mobile Chamber Music has featured two string quartets --one well known and established, the other young and promising. The St. Petersburg String Quartet, which performed two years ago to a sold-out house with pianist Ruth Laredo, returns Jan. 14; the Ying Quartet, 2006 winner of the Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album, will perform March 3. Depending on your perspective, the timing of the Ying Quartet concert is either fortuitous or foolish: Violinist Itzhak Perlman will perform 48 hours earlier with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra at the Saenger Theatre. Consider it a weekend windfall for strings aficionados.