Pianist Taylor returns to judge, perform

Pianist Christopher Taylor will return to Chautauqua to judge the 2015 Piano Competition. He’s also delivering a performance of his own.

Taylor will give a recital at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, and the event benefits the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund. He will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, arranged by Liszt, and Brahms’ Third Sonata.

“I’m starting with a piece that sort of constitutes an evolving tradition for me — it’s my third summer here and each time I seem to bring back a different symphony,” Taylor said. “I’m just amazed by the sort of arranger Liszt was.”

John Milbauer, interim co-chair of the Piano Program, said — like Jon Nakamatsu, who visited earlier this month — Taylor is an example of award-winning pianists that can come from atypical paths.

“One of the things that we do in the Piano Program is bring in people with different backgrounds who have achieved success,” Milbauer said. “He is a writer, a philosopher, an engineer, a computer programmer — there are lots of connections between math and music, but he is astonishing.”

Milbauer said each of the Piano Program’s guests play at a high level, regardless of how they got there. Taylor graduated from Harvard University with a math degree, Milbauer said, and the following year, won the bronze medal in the Ninth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

“There’s so much variety in the piano world. It’s great that here we can showcase some of this variety,” Milbauer said. “His energy is so concentrated — at the same time overwhelming — and you can’t help but share his energy.”

Taylor said that, although mathematics as a whole tends to have a cold and intimidating reputation, it’s an art form he has come to appreciate.

“It’s been efficient to have a broader perspective,” he said. “While I wouldn’t say that my mathematical training directly informs my musical activities, it undoubtedly helped keep my brain sharp. It does go to show that music is more than just a technical craft — it involves and is related to many fields of human endeavor.”