Known as an innovative, original pianist, Carol Lian has received considerable critical acclaim for her exceptional ability to incorporate improvisation, a technique generally associated with jazz, into the performance of classical music. By doing so, Lian has, as critics contend, redefined, even expanded, the concept of performance in classical music, a concept which, it must be said, has been determined by the paradigm of fidelity to the composer's work -- as it is written. Born in New York, she started studying piano as a child, gaining admission to the School of Performing Arts, despite the skepticism of her teacher, who considered Lian insufficiently advanced. At the School, Lian progressed rapidly, impressing her teachers. In fact, following her first year of studies, she was asked to perform on the radio. During this broadcast performance, the 13-year-old Lian, who had chosen a piece by Bach, experienced a memory lapse, which turned to be a defining moment for her. Determined to complete the piece, Lian discovered -- and used -- a talent for improvisation.
After graduation, Lian went to Queens College, where she studied piano and composition. A brilliant student, Lian particularly excelled in performance, receiving several awards. Having completed her studies, she obtained the post of artist-in-residence in Molde, Norway. Warmly received in Norway, where she performed extensively, Lian also made a successful concert tour of Italy, where critics praised her musicianship, taste, and versatility.
Lian's repertoire encompasses a wide variety of music -- from Scarlatti, to Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, and Gershwin. Her debut recording, on the Carousel label, features compositions by Scarlatti, Ravel, and Gershwin. In addition, in collaboration with percussionist Ronnie Bedford, she recorded an interesting disc of improvised music. Critics have lauded Lian's improvisations as lyrical, original, and intriguing, remarking that she convincingly blends various traditions without lapsing into mere eclecticism. Finally, improvisation has allowed Lian to, in her words, "get deeper into the music of Mozart or Chopin or Liszt" because she felt "so much closer to the spirit of the music, to the spontaneous thought when the music first comes to the composer."