– Guest Pianist

Margaret Leng Tan has established herself as a major force in the American avant-garde. Tan, whose work embraces theater, choreography, performance, has been called “the diva of avant-garde pianism” by The New Yorker. She is renowned for her interpretations of John Cage and her performances of American and Asian music that transcend the piano’s conventional boundaries. She is often featured at international festivals and records for Mode, New Albion and ECM.

Margaret Leng Tan

Margaret Leng Tan

Photo image credit: Yvonne Tan

A recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts' Solo Recitalist Award, Tan 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 preeminent interpreter. She was the featured performer in a tribute to Cage’s memory at the 45th Venice Biennale. In 2007, Tan was again invited to perform his music at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Her Cage recordings are critically regarded as definitive performances and she performs Cage’s music in the Public Broadcasting System’s American Masters films on John Cage and Jasper Johns. She is the editor for Volume 4 of Cage’s piano music, published by C.F. Peters Corporation. In 2006, she gave the premiere of his newly discovered Chess Pieces which she also prepared for publication. Tan’s DVD of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes (mode 158) was selected as a “Desert Island Choice” by Gramophone in 2007. During this Cage centenary season, Tan will honor her mentor in celebrations in the US, Eastern and Western Europe, and Central America.

Margaret Leng Tan has been called “the queen of the toy piano” (The New York Times) and “the toy piano’s Rubenstein” (The Independent, UK). After discovering Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano in 1993, Tan became fascinated by the artistic potential of toy instruments; her groundbreaking 1997 CD, The Art of the Toy Piano (Philips/Universal), made her the world’s first toy piano virtuoso. Her latest recording, SHE HERSELF ALONE:The Art of the Toy Piano 2, has been released on CD and DVD (mode 221) to critical acclaim.

Evans Chan’s 2004 documentary, Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan, was nominated for “Best Music Documentary” at the American Film Institute/Discovery Channel’s SilverDocs. Sorceress was named "Best Contemporary Music Film" by Spain's Cd Compact magazine in 2010. Sorceress and Chan’s The Maverick Piano, featuring live performances by Tan, are available as a Mode Records DVD (mode 194).

In 2011 Tan was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by the State University of New York.

Margaret Leng Tan lives in Brooklyn, New York with 3 Steinways, 20 toy pianos and 5 dogs (at last count).

Magaret Leng Tan with John Cage

Margaret Leng Tan with John Cage
Photo image credit: George Hirose