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 concern 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 playwright 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