Santa Fe Pro Musica Welcomes Conrad Tao for Season Finale


Santa Fe Pro Musica welcomes the return of pianist and composer Conrad Tao in its concert The Emperor featuring the Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra on April 23 at 4pm and April 24 at 3pm. On Friday April 22, Conrad Tao will play a solo program Conrad Tao in Recital at 7:30 pm. The New York Times notes “[Tao’s] program…conveyed the scope of his probing intellect and openhearted vision.” Join us as we welcome back the extraordinary Conrad Tao to the Lensic Stage for his solo recital performance and his two concerts with the Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra.


WHAT |          Conrad Tao in Recital
                          Conrad Tao, pianist
WHEN |          Friday, April 22 at 7:30pm

WHERE |       Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM

WHAT |          The Emperor
                          Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra, Thomas O’Connor conductor and
Conrad Tao, pianist

WHEN |          Saturday, April 23 at 4pm & Sunday, April 24 at 3pm

WHERE |       Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM

TICKETS |     $20, $35, $48, $69 at the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office (505) 988-4640, ext. 1000, Tickets Santa Fe at The Lensic (505) 988-1234, or online at Discounts for students, teachers, groups, and families are available exclusively through the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office.

Meet the Music | Learn more about the music you love! Thomas O’Connor, Santa Fe Pro Musica Conductor and Music Director, will present a “behind the scenes” discussion of the music one hour prior to each Orchestra concert at the Lensic – Free to ticket holders.

Artist Dinner with Conrad Tao | Sunday, April 24 at 5:30pm at Andiamo! Reservations are required through the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office at 505.988.4640 ext 1000. $85 per person.

About the Programs and Composers

Conrad Tao in Recital

Rzewski North American Ballads: Which Side Are You On?
Copland Piano Sonata
Rzewski North American Ballads: Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
Ravel Valses nobles et sentimentales
Schumann Carnaval, Op. 9

Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
Which Side Are You On? (From North American Ballads)
Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (From North American Ballads)

The American born composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski is currently Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Belgium. New York Times critic John Rockwell (1980) remarks that Mr. Rzewski’s “tunes have a leftist political caste and reflect his long-standing concernfrederic-rzewski_1558903c for the relationship between art and politics.” Nicolas Slonimsky (1993) paints a more vivid portrait of the composer: “He is a granitically overpowering piano technician, capable of depositing huge boulders of sonoristic material across the keyboard without actually wrecking the instrument.”

In North American Ballads, a set of four pieces written in 1978, Rzewski looks back to 1930s America and the issue of labor rights. The text of Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues comments on the harsh working conditions in the textile mills of North Carolina. The piece begins with references to the machines of the industrial revolution and builds to a deafening climax. As the sound dissipates, the blues emerge illustrating the uprising to unionize factory workers.

Old man Sargent, sitting at the desk,
The damned old fool won’t give us no rest.
He’d take the nickels off a dead man’s eyes
To buy a Coca-Cola and an Eskimo Pie.

Which side are you on? concerns a series of strikes in the coal mines of “Bloody Harlan” County Kentucky.  Malcolm Cowley (New Republic) referred to the controversy here as a “battle in which everyone must take his stand. Whatever brings relief to the miners is an enemy of the operators.”

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.
Which side are you on?  Which side are you on?

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Piano Sonata

Aaron Copland is one of the most important composers in the 20th century, acclaimed for his scores for film and ballet music (Billy the Kid, Rodeo), and music that won the hearts
of Americans, including Lincoln Portrait, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Appalachian Spring (Pulitzer Prize, 1945).

His Piano Sonata was commissioned by the Aaron-Coplandplaywright Clifford Odets in 1939 and premiered in Buenos Aires in 1941. Not a populist work like his Appalachian Spring, the Piano Sonata instead represents Copland’s more “profound and personal thought” (Anne Shreffler). The outer sections of the first movement feature dense sonorous chordal writing. Contrasting with this is a quick middle section that indulges in inventive rhythmic play. The second movement explores fast rhythms in irregular, rapidly changing meters. Although the movement is not overtly jazz, Copland acknowledges, “I never would have thought of those rhythms if I had not been familiar with jazz.” The work ends with an extended, slow-moving passage of wide leaps marked “elegiac,” utilizing materials with the contours and moods of American folk ballads. Copland writes that he did not want to end with “the usual flash of virtuosic passages; instead, it is grandiose and massive.”

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Valses nobles et sentimentales

 The early 20th century French composer Maurice Ravel wrote that “the title Valses nobles et sentimentales clearly indicates my intention to compose a series of waltzes following the example of Schubert. This piece was first performed amid protestations and catcalls at a concert of the Société Musicale Indépendante.” The year was 1911, and the brash opening chords, which sound fiery and energetic to our ears, appeared to confound Ravel’s contemporaries. One critic said “the soloist must be playing handfuls of wrong notes!” The set of eight uninterrupted waltzes did not gain popularity until the following year when Ravel orchestrated them as music for a ballet. Since there is no indication, the listener can decide which of the waltzes are noble and which are sentimental.  Ravel headlined the score with a line from the poet Henri de Régnier: “…the pleasure, delectable and ever new, of devoting oneself to something useless.” Debussy said they were the work of “the subtlest ear that ever existed.”

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Carnaval, Op. 9

 Carnaval was written in 1834-35 and subtitled Scènes mignonnes sur quatre notes (Little Scenes on Four Notes). The work is a collection of short pieces that represent masked revelers at Carnival, a festival occurring before the Christian tradition of Lent. Schumann imagines the masked revelers as himself, his friends, colleagues, and characters from commedia dell’arte (improvised Italian comedy featuring stereotyped characters).

The musical vignettes, intended as encoded puzzles or musical cryptograms, are all constructed from various combinations of four notes. Schumann impishly predicted that, “deciphering my masked ball will be a real game for you.”  The four notes are derived from the name of the German town, Asch. This was the hometown of Schumann’s then current flame, Ernestine von Fricken. Real and imagined characters from Schumann’s life are portrayed, including Chopin, Paganini, and his wife-to-be Clara; the two aspects of Schumann’s musical personality, the quiet dreamer Eusebius and the passionately intense Florestan; and figures from commedia dell’arte. Every piece in Carnaval, except the Préambule, is based on the ASCH motif, which usually appears at the beginning and is then developed in ways both obvious and obscure. However, Schumann said he was more interested in the “soul-states,” the emotions and the moods, conjured by the music than in programmatic associations of the movement titles.

The Emperor

Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
Caroline Shaw Entr’acte
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, posthumous portrait by Barbara Krafft, 1819 (Wikimedia Commons)

From the beginning of Mozart’s symphonic career in 1763 (when he was seven years old) until 1780, the majority of his 41 symphonies were written when he lived in Salzburg. In his last decade (1781-1791) Mozart lived in Vienna where he busied himself with opera, piano concerti, and chamber music, but where he wrote only six symphonies.  From 1782-1786, he composed the three symphonies Nos. 35, 36, and 38, and then in a six-week period in the summer of 1788, Mozart composed three extraordinary symphonies, Nos. 39, 40, and 41 “Jupiter”. The origin of this final symphonic trilogy has been the subject of much speculation among Mozart scholars. In Mozart’s time it was unthinkable for a composer to write music for his own pleasure; music was composed because it was sure to be used (and paid for), so it is unlikely that Mozart wrote these symphonies without having a probable opportunity to present them. Yet, there is no evidence of these symphonies being performed in any concerts during Mozart’s final three years. Despite the best efforts of Mozart’s biographers, the mystery of the composer’s last three symphonies remains just that.

The Symphony in G Minor, K. 550 is one of the most beloved of all symphonies and no other symphony of Mozart’s, not even the “Jupiter,” has aroused so much comment as this one. This symphony “is a remarkable fusion of opposites: of passion and elegance, sorrow and exultation, darkness and light” (Linda Mack, Andrews University). It is an exquisite example of the classical style and an important link between classicism and romanticism.

Caroline Shaw (b. 1982)

Caroline Shaw is a New York based musician who appears in many different guises. In 2013 she became the youngest ever Pulitzer Prize winner for her composition Partita for 8 Voices. She is a Grammy-winning singer in the vocal ensemble “Roomful of Teeth” and as a violinist she Caroline Shawperforms with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). She has also performed with the Trinity Wall Street Choir, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and has appeared incognito as a backup singer and violinist on Saturday Night Live with Paul McCartney, on the Dave Letterman Show with The National (American indie rock band), on the Tonight Show with The Roots (American hip hop/neo soul band). Shaw has been a Rice University Goliard Fellow (busking and fiddling in Sweden) and a Yale Baroque Ensemble Fellow.  In addition to maintaining a busy freelance career as a violinist and singer, she has received commissions to write music for the Carmel Bach Festival, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Guggenheim Museum, the Baltimore Symphony, and others. She is currently a doctoral candidate in composition at Princeton University.

Entr’acte [meaning “between acts”] was written in 2011 after hearing the Brentano Quartet play Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2. My piece is structured like a minuet and trio, riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further. I love the way some music suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, Technicolor transition.” Entr’acte was first performed in 2011 by the Brentano Quartet at Princeton University. The string orchestra version was commissioned in 2014 by “A Far Cry” (Grammy-nominated, Boston-based chamber orchestra).

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor”


(Beethoven with the Missa solemnis, 1819, portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler – Photo public domain)

Beethoven’s time was one of revolutions, wars, terror, reforms, poverty and extravagance, and his music reflects the turbulence of his age.  He stretched the Viennese Classical tradition that he inherited from Mozart and Haydn into a revolutionary new style of  “grandiose dimensions, profound utterances, and highly willful rhetoric of unprecedented power” (Robert Levin).

20th century music critic Peter Latham painted this cheerful picture of the young Beethoven in Vienna, the years before his deafness, his illnesses and his lost loves: “His genius was acknowledged by all, and there was an animation about the young Beethoven that people found immensely appealing, an almost untamed and passionate quality in both his performance and his personality.” New York Times critic Harold Schonberg further described him in his fascinating study The Great Pianists (1987): “His playing was overwhelming not so much because Beethoven was a great virtuoso, but because he had an ocean-like surge and depth that made all other playing sound like the trickle of a rivulet.”

Beethoven wrote his Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major for Piano and Orchestra “Emperor in Vienna in 1809. It is dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, Beethoven’s patron, friend and student. The sobriquet “Emperor” dates from Beethoven’s time, however the source is unclear. It premiered November 28, 1811 in Leipzig, but unlike the premieres of his first four piano concerti, the soloist was not Beethoven but Friedrich Schneider, a 25-year-old church organist. Although it wasn’t common knowledge at the time, Beethoven’s deafness was so advanced that he may have turned the soloist’s work over to someone else rather than admit the difficulties he had playing with an orchestra. To those who packed the Leipzig Gewandhaus, this concerto was full of brilliance and surprises, and the performance was enthusiastically received. The critic for Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung reported that this was “undoubtedly one of the most original, imaginative, effective—but also most difficult—of all existing concertos.”

About Conrad Tao
Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer, and has been dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, a “thoughtful and mature composer” by NPR, and “ferociously talented” by TimeOut New York. In June of 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named Tao a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music. Later that year, Tao was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.


In June of 2013, Tao kicked off the inaugural UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, which he curated and produced. The festival, featured Conrad with guest artists performing a wide variety of new works. Across three nights encompassing electroacoustic music, performance art, youth ensembles, and much more, UNPLAY explored the fleeting ephemera of the Internet, the possibility of a 21st-century canon, and music’s role in social activism and critique. Tao’s career as composer has garnered eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and the Carlos Surinach Prize from BMI.

Tao has recorded numerous works including the Mozart Piano Concertos with the Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra, Thomas O’Connor, Conductor released in 2012. Mr. Tao’s Mozart Piano Concerto CDs will be available at the concerts.

For more information, please visit Conrad Tao’s website at

Watch and Listen

Conrad Tao talks about his relationship with music and how he sees being a musician as being on an infinite path | Conrad Tao Electronic Press  Kit |

A live performance of A Walk for Emelio from Conrad Tao’s album Pictures |

About Santa Fe Pro Musica

Season Opening webSanta Fe Pro Musica, founded in 1980, is a non-profit performing arts organization dedicated to inspiring and educating audiences of all ages through the performance of great music. Pro Musica performs a varied repertoire, covering four centuries of music on modern and baroque instruments, including works for chamber orchestra, small ensemble and large-scale works for orchestra and chorus. In 2008, Pro Musica’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (chamber arrangement by Schoenberg) was nominated for a GRAMMY® award in the classical category of Best Classical Album/Small Ensemble. In August of 2012, Santa Fe Pro Musica Recordings produced a CD of Conrad Tao, pianist, performing Mozart Piano Concertos No. 17 and No. 25 and in 2013 produced a CD of music by Britten and Vaughan Williams. In addition to gaining national recognition over its 33 years for its artistry in performance, Santa Fe Pro Musica offers some of the most distinguished educational opportunities in northern New Mexico, reaching thousands of students every year with a Youth Concert series, a team-building, ensemble-training program, and a master class series featuring student ensembles working with world-class musicians.

For more information, please visit our website:

The 2015-2016 Season is partially funded by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission, the 1% Lodgers Tax, and New Mexico Arts (a Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs).SFAC

Santa Fe Pro Musica sincerely thanks their sponsors and partners for their support:


Media Partner| The Santa Fe New Mexican


Lodging Partners | Hotel Santa Fe, El Rey Inn, The Santa Fe Sage Inn

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