Pianist Conrad Tao to Join Utah Symphony for Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 Concert, 1/31-2/1

Guest pianist and Salt Lake City favorite Conrad Tao joins Maestro Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in an emotional performance of Qigang Chen's Wu Xing (The Five Elements), Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor.

Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist, composer, and violinist. Dubbed a musician of "probing intellect and open-hearted vision" by the New York Times, Tao comes to Salt Lake City to play Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, a work that Prokofiev modestly recalled as being "splendidly accepted by the audience" in New York in the 1920s. This is his third concert with the Utah Symphony. Previously, he played as a last-minute substitute for Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody in 2010 and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in 2012. During the 2013-1014 season, Tao is embarking upon a world tour with stops in South Africa, Sweden and Amsterdam.

This weekend's concert comes from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, an emotional piece written after Tchaikovsky's marriage failed. He dedicated the symphony to Nadezhda von Meck, his patroness and the person whom he called his best friend. She was an exceptionally wealthy widow who worshiped Tchaikovsky's music and her offer of support came at just the right moment. Their strange, purely pen-and-paper relationship lasted 14 years. Along with the monthly stipend that sustained him, Tchaikovsky undoubtedly benefitted from the palliative effect of Nadezhda's attentions to his soul.

Much has been written about the "Fate" theme that opens the first movement. Tchaikovsky named it as such in a letter to Nadezhda regarding "their" symphony. He called it a "decisive force which prevents our hopes and happiness from being realized..." and also said that "like the sword of Damocles, [it] is suspended over our heads and perpetually poisons our souls." Foreboding stuff to be sure, but the music actually has a generous amount of hopes and happy moments too, as if Tchaikovsky knew he could only define the sword by also describing what it threatened.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 was last performed by the Utah Symphony on the Masterworks Series in 2008. Joann Falletta conducted.

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by Peter Danish