Based in New York since 2001, South African-born pianist Kathleen Tagg has performed on four continents in leading venues such as Carnegie Hall, had her original music performed in venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center, appeared on a host of recordings of classical, world music and multi-genre recordings and produced numerous recordings and inter-disciplinary programs from Cape Town to Los Angeles. Her work has been released on record labels NAXOS, Ossia Records, Table Pounding Records and Gallo Africa.
A 2014 South African Music Awards nominee for best classical album, she has performed in recital with some of the world’s leading musicians, and the remarkable breadth of her collaborations defines her multi-faceted career. Known for her explorations in sound color, whether in virtuosic standard repertoire or her own creations exploding the sound of the piano from the inside out using extended techniques, she crosses boundaries seamlessly. She has performed with artists such as clarinetists David Krakauer and Kinan Azmeh, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, cellist Matt Haimowitz and singers Janai Brugger and Regina Zona.
Since 2001, Kathleen has plunged herself into New York’s musical world, performing in venues such as Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, the 92nd Street Y, Merkin Hall and multiple Carnegie Hall recitals, including her 2004 acclaimed solo recital debut as winner of the Artist International auditions, when she was described by critics as:
“a superbly turned out artist, and a musician of such grand endowment and unsparing discipline, with which she honors her natural gift and therefore the music she plays and the public she plays to” (NY Concert Review)
Since then she has appeared frequently at consulates and cultural organizations across the United States, and has performed live on WQXR New York and WGBH Boston. She has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Southern Africa and India and has appeared on numerous recordings, from classical to world music. Her 2014 NAXOS recording of the songs of Jake Heggie with American soprano Regina Zona garnered glowing reviews, and she is currently working on recording a new project, Breath and Hammer, with duo partner clarinetist David Krakauer.
Kathleen completed her studies at the University of Cape Town, Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, which awarded her the Helen Cohn Award as the outstanding Doctoral graduate, and where she taught for four years. In South Africa, Kathleen received awards from the Ernst Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, National Arts Council and the Jules Kramer and Harry Crossley Awards, the Oude Meeste Prize, and top prizes at the SAMRO, Adcock Ingram and Hennie Joubert Piano Competitions. In New York she garnered awards from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and the New York Performing Arts Foundation.
In 2014 she was appointed to the faculty of SongFest at Colburn in Los Angeles, and worked with a large number of young artists, as well as working with composers Jake Heggie, Gabriela Lena Frank, Laura Karpman, Ted Hearne, Libby Larsen and Anne Le Baron. Other renowned composers with whom she has worked include Kevin Volans, Lowell Lieberman, Aleksandra Vrebalov, George Crumb, Peter Klatzow, Ben Moore, Tom Cipullo, John Musto, Ricky Ian Gordon, Hendrik Hofmeyer and Richard Danielpour. With her great interest in new music, Kathleen has premiered countless works, many written for her.
In 2012 she released the SAMA-nominated album Soul of Fire with singer Zanne Stapelberg based on the show of the same name that has received acclaim across South Africa, featuring her work as pianist, arranger, producer and music director. Music from Soul of Fire was used on Deon Meyer’s new film, Die Laaste Tango, and Kathleen’s arrangement and performance were featured on the soundtrack released on Gallo Africa in 2013.
Recent performances include her and Sophie Jaff’s Orchestrated Songs at Lincoln Center in New York, performances and workshops in India and USA with the Sabina Rakcheyeva Ensemble, and the release of the group’s debut album, and Allora and Calzadilla’s critically acclaimed Stop, Prepare, Repair at New York’s Gladstone Gallery. She recorded the music of Tom Kitt for the Broadway Lullabies Project and performed on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre at the launch in 2012. She has frequently been heard live on South African TV and radio.
In the past two years, Kathleen has returned to programming solo performances to balance her collaborative performances, and toured South Africa and America with programs featuring virtuosic repertoire, and resumed concerto performances with orchestra in 2013.