Margaret Leng Tan

Margaret Leng Tan

Margaret Leng Tan has established herself as a major force within the American avant-garde: a highly visible, visionary pianist whose work embraces theater, choreography, performance. She is regularly featured at international festivals, has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and records for Mode, New Albion and ECM.

Tan, a recipient of The National Endowment for the Arts’ Solo Recitalist Award, is the first woman to earn a doctorate from The Juilliard School. Exploring cultural crosscurrents between Asia and the West (she is originally from Singapore) led her to John Cage. An active collaboration ensued that lasted from 1981 to his death in 1992, establishing her as his pre-eminent interpreter. Her Cage recordings are critically regarded as definitive performances and she appears in the Public Broadcasting System’s American Masters films on John Cage and Jasper Johns performing Cage’s music. After his death in 1992, she was the featured performer in a tribute to his memory at the 45th Venice Biennale. In 2007, she was invited again to perform his music at the 51st Venice Biennale. She is the editor of Volume 4 of Cage’s piano music for C. F. Peters and in 2006 gave the premiere of his newly discovered Chess Pieces, which she also prepared for publication. Tan’s Mode DVD of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes, was selected as a “Desert Island Choice” by Gramophone in 2007.

Tan is fascinated by the artistic potential of toy instruments and her groundbreaking 1997 CD, The Art of the Toy Piano (Philips/Universal), established her as the world’s premiere toy piano virtuoso. Her penchant for music that confronts the piano’s normal boundaries inspired like-minded composers to write for her such as Tan Dun, Ge Gan-ru, Alivin Lucier, Michael Nyman and Toby Twining. She is also a favorite of George Crumb. In 1999 and 2004, she presented 70th and 75th birthday concerts honoring him at New York’s Merkin Hall and Zankel Hall respectively. Her DVD recording of his Makrokosmos I and II has come to be regarded as a performance manual for pianists.

Filmmaker Evans Chan’s documentary, Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan (2004), has been screened at numerous international film festivals including Vancouver, Melbourne, and AFI/Discovery Channel’s Silverdocs where it was a Best Music Documentary Nominee.

Margaret Leng Tan on Mode:
She Herself Alone: The Art of the Toy Piano 2 (mode 221)
Sonic Encounters: The New Piano (mode 15)
Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan (mode 194)
John CAGE: The Works for Piano 4 (mode 106)
  The Works for Piano 7 (mode 158)
George CRUMB: Makrokosmos Books I and II (mode 142)
Metamorphoses (Book I); Five Pieces for Piano
  (mode 303)
Milos RAICKOVICH: Prelude & Fugue (version for 2 toy pianos) (mode 45)

Margaret Leng Tan online