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Image: Jim Standard

Auditorium / 7.30pm - 9pm

Miniature meets Monumental

Legendary Singaporean pianist Margaret Leng Tan has been hailed as the ‘diva of avant-garde pianism’ (The New Yorker) and the ‘queen of the toy piano’ (The New York Times). Renowned for her stunning interpretations of American pioneers John Cage and George Crumb, Ms. Tan makes her Sydney debut with Miniature meets Monumental, performed on piano, toy piano and all manner of toy instruments and toys.  

Henry Cowell’s monumental piano cluster pieces are heard alongside the delicate tones emanating from a hand-cranked music box in Phyllis Chen’s Carousels. Toby Twining’s An American in Buenos Aires for toy piano and piano is a nod to Gershwin’s symphonic masterpiece. Toys abound in Old Mac’sYellow Submarine by Erik Griswold and Raphael Mostel’s Star Spangled Etude; a jack-in-the-box literally pops up in James Joslin’s Für Enola. Who would have thought toys could provoke such musical mayhem?

The evening’s highlight is the Australian premiere of Metamorphoses (Book 1), Ten Fantasy-Pieces (after celebrated paintings) for Amplified Piano by George Crumb, written for Margaret Leng Tan. This is Crumb’s first major piano cycle since his groundbreaking Makrokosmos series of the 1970s and like the Makrokosmos, it requires the pianist to be a virtuoso not only at the keyboard but playing inside the piano and vocalizing as well. 
Music, theater, comedy, performance all merge in Miniature meets Monumental, an event of maximal contrasts where the toy piano holds its own against its behemoth counterpart.

View the full program notes here

Program current at time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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The diva of avant-garde pianism 

The New Yorker 

“Metamorphoses” felt intensely probing and often incantatory, as if conjuring up whole new worlds from the dark, elusive depths of the paintings. Tan played through them as if the fate of the world depended on it and navigated the battery of instruments...with extraordinary focus — winning a sustained standing ovation for herself and for the composer.

The Washington Post


Henry Cowell Tides of Manaunaun
Henry Cowell Advertisement
Toby Twining An American in Buenos Aires*
Phyllis Chen Carousel 
Phyllis Chen Cobwebbed Carousel* (video by Rob Dietz) 
James Joslin Für Enola
Erik Griswold Chooks! Bicycle Lee Hooker from Old MacDonald's Yellow Submarine*
Raphaël Mostel Star-spangled Etude ("Furling Banner")*

Interval - 15 minutes 

George Crumb Metamorphoses (Book 1)* Ten Fantasy-Pieces (after celebrated paintings) for amplified piano, toy piano, auxiliary percussion, voice

Black Prince - Paul Klee
The Goldfish - Paul Klee
Wheatfield with Crows - Vincent van Gogh 
The Fiddler - Marc Chagall 
Nocturne: Blue and Gold Southhampton Water - James McNeill Whistler
Perilous Night - Jasper Johns 
Clowns at Night - Marc Chagall
Contes Barbares - Paul Gauguin 
The Persistence of Memory - Salvador Dali
The Blue Rider - Vasily Kandinsky 

*Written for Margaret Leng Tan  

Program current at time of publishing but may be subject to change


Margaret Leng Tan
Piano, toy piano, toys, sound objects

Artist Bio

Singaporean pianist Margaret Leng Tan is one of the most highly regarded performers in American experimental music. Tan, whose work embraces theater, choreography, performance, has been hailed as the “diva of avant-garde pianism” by The New Yorker. She is renowned as a pre-eminent John Cage interpreter (her mentor of eleven years) and for her performances of American and Asian music that transcend the piano’s conventional boundaries. She is also one of George Crumb’s favorite performers for whom he composed Metamorphoses (Book I), a major piano cycle which Ms. Tan has performed to critical acclaim throughout Europe and USA since 2017. It will receive its Australian premiere at the Extended Play Festival presented by Sydney’s City Recital Hall on August 31.

The first woman to earn a doctorate from Juilliard, Margaret Leng Tan is recognized as the world’s first toy piano virtuoso. Her groundbreaking 1997 recording, The Art of the Toy Piano (Point/Universal), transformed a humble toy into a real instrument. She has been called “the queen of the toy piano” (The New York Times) and “the toy piano’s Rubenstein” (The Independent, UK). The BBC, CNN, National Public Radio (USA) have all profiled her career as a concert toy pianist. Her curiosity has extended to other toy instruments as well, substantiating her credo: “Poor tools require better skills” (Marcel Duchamp).

In 2015 Ms. Tan was awarded the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s highest artistic accolade. Recent major works written for her include Curios by Phyllis Chen, a solo music-theater piece for toy instruments. Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep, a theatrical sonic portrait of Margaret Leng Tan, is currently in the works in collaboration with the Australian music theatre company, Chamber Made. Dragon Ladies will premiere in February 2020 at AsiaTOPA in Melbourne.

To find out more about Margaret Leng Tan visit or find her on Facebook 


Margaret Leng Tan’s performance at Extended Play has been made possible through the generous support from Naomi Milgrom Foundation