Rhapsody in Blue with Conrad Tao

Rhapsody in Blue with Conrad Tao

Rhapsody in Blue with Conrad Tao

The 2021-2022 Masterworks Series
Sponsored by Paul and Linnea Bert

Concert presented by

Robert Moody, conductor | Conrad Tao, piano

Saturday, May 14, 2022 · 7:30pm · Cannon Center for Performing Arts

Sunday, May 15, 2022 · 2:30pm · Cannon Center for Performing Arts

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(1865 - 1935)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953)

Concerto No. 3 in C-Major for Piano and Orchestra, op. 26
 I. Andante - Allegro
 II. Andantino
 III. Allegro ma non troppo
Conrad Tao, piano


(b. 1941)

An American Port of Call

GEORGE GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937)

Rhapsody in Blue
Conrad Tao, piano

Meet the Musicians 


Music Director Robert Moody 

2021/2022 marks Maestro Robert Moody’s fifth season as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.  Expanded and adventurous programming, the MSO’s first commercial recording in over three decades, and a new $25-million-dollar endowment have highlighted the past two seasons.  Moody is also Music Director of the lauded Arizona Musicfest, boasting one of the finest festival orchestras in North America.  Players hail from the top orchestras in the world, including the Vienna and New York Philharmonics, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, and San Francisco Symphonies, and the San Francisco and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras.

In 2018 Moody completed eleven-years as Music Director for the Portland Symphony Orchestra (Maine), thirteen-years as Music Director of the Winston-Salem Symphony (NC).  Prior to that he served as Resident Conductor for the Phoenix Symphony, Chorus Master for Santa Fe Opera, and Associate Conductor for the Evansville (IN) Philharmonic Orchestra.

Moody recently guest conducted the three major orchestras of South Africa in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town; he was immediately invited to return for more concerts in the Summer of 2020.  Other guest conducting this season includes the orchestras of Bogota, Colombia; Aachen, Germany; Sacramento, California; and a return to the Sewanee Music Festival in the mountains of Tennessee.  Prior Guest Conducting has included Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestras of Toronto, Houston, Indianapolis, Detroit, Seattle, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Buffalo, Columbus, Louisville, Minnesota, and Slovenian Philharmonic.  Festival conducting includes Santa Fe Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Brevard Music Center, Sewanee Festival, Eastern Music Festival, Skaneateles Festival, Bowdoin International Festival, and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Equally at home in the opera pit, Moody began his career as apprentice conductor for the Landestheater Opera in Linz, Austria.  He conducted for the opera companies of Santa Fe, Brevard Music Center, and Hilton Head Opera.  He also assisted on a production of Verdi Otello at the Metropolitan Opera (NY), conducted by Valery Gergiev, and at The English National Opera, where he was Assistant Conductor for Kurt Weill Street Scene.  He made his Washington National Opera and North Carolina Opera debuts in 2014, and conducted Bartok Bluebeard’s Castle, Leoncavallo I Pagliacci, and Poulenc Dialogues of the Carmelites in the seasons following.  Debuts to rave reviews with Brevard Music Center for Weill Street Scene, Opera Carolina for Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, and Des Moines Metro Opera for Strauss Die Fledermaus came in 2017 and 2018.

Moody is a champion of the works of his close friend Mason Bates, now Composer-in-Residence with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and prior in the same role with the Chicago Symphony.  Moody commissioned/conducted Bates’ first full orchestra composition, and has been instrumental in the commission and premiere performances of several of Bates’ important major works for orchestra, including OdeRusty Air in Carolina, and Desert Transport.

Moody’s work can be heard on several commercially released recordings.  He collaborated with the Canadian Brass for their Bach and Legends albums.  He is also the conductor for Native American artist R. Carlos Nakai’s Fourth World album.  In 2015 he was honored to conduct the “Cancer Blows” gala concert with Ryan Anthony, members of the Dallas Symphony, and a host of trumpet luminaries, to aid the fight against Multiple Myloma.  CD and DVD recordings of that live concert are also commercially available.  Fall of 2019 will see the release of Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording in several decades.  The works are Jim Stephenson’s Concerto for Hope featuring Ryan Anthony, and Song of Hope” by Peter Meechan – featuring Ryan Anthony and Scott Moore.

A South Carolina native, Moody holds degrees from Furman University and the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Donald Neuen.  He is a Rotarian, and serves/has served on the boards of AIDs Care Services, Winston-Salem YMCA, WDAV Radio, and the Charlotte Master Chorale.  Maestro Moody is an avid runner, swimmer, and snow-skier.


Conrad Tao, piano

Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer and has been dubbed “the kind of musician who is shaping the future of classical music” by New York Magazine, and an artist of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times. He is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and was named a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. As a composer, he was also the recipient of a 2019 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, for Outstanding Sound Design / Music Composition, for his work on More Forever, his collaboration with dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher.

Conrad Tao has recently appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony. As a composer, his work has been performed by orchestras throughout the US; his first large scale orchestral work, Everything Must Go, was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 18-19, and will be premiered in Europe by the Antwerp Symphony in 21-22. In the same season, his violin concerto, written for Stefan Jackiw, will be premiered by the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Spano, and the Baltimore Symphony under Kirill Karabits. In the 2021-22 season, he will also make his London solo recital debut at the Wigmore Hall, and will appear in recital throughout North America, including Boston, New York, Washington, and Seattle. Tao’s Bessie Award-winning dance work with Caleb Teicher, More Forever, will continue to tour North America, including performances at Cal Performances in Berkeley and Fall for Dance North in Toronto. Other collaborations include his duo work Counterpoint, also with Caleb Teicher, and a multi-city tour with violinist Stefan Jackiw and cellist Jay Campbell, as a member of the Junction Trio.

In the 2020-21 season, Tao was the focus of a series of concerts and interviews with the Finnish Radio Symphony, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Hannu Lintu and Andrew Norman’s Suspend with Sakari Oramo, live on television. While most performances in the 20-21 season were canceled due to the COVID epidemic, he appeared with the Cincinnati Symphony and Louis Langrée, returned to the Seattle Symphony to perform Beethoven Concerto No. 4, and returned to Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra, and Bravo! Vail with the New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden. Further invitations included the National Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. His creation with Caleb Teicher, More Forever, commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim, was planned for tours across the US, including Dance Cleveland and Fall for Dance, Toronto. Tao and Teicher’s latest collaboration for Works & Process, Rhapsody in Blue, kicked off the Guggenheim’s return to in-person performances and was lauded by The New York Times as “monumental.”

Robert Moody's Notes


Conrad Tao is in an incredibly small club – one of only a handful of pianists living today considered true “superstars.”  He began as a child prodigy performing concertos on both piano and violin (just like young Mozart!).  His renditions of both Prokofiev and Gershwin will have you leaping from your seat!  I’ve rarely shared the stage with a more energetic and transfixing artist than Conrad.  

Bringing "Fantasia” to life, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will immediately send your thoughts to magical brooms and a famous cartoon mouse! And living composer Adolphus Hailstork’s American Port of Call celebrates the energy of a great American port city – like ours on the mighty MississippiPerfect piece for MSO in the month of May! 


- Music Director Robert Moody

Program Notes

by Michelle Pellay-Walker 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas, is based on one of Goethe’s best known ballads, written in 1797:  An old sorcerer gives his apprentice a number of chores to perform during his absence from the workshop.  The apprentice chooses the lazy way out, enchanting a broom to bring water in from the well,…but has no idea how to bring the activity to a halt;  chopping the broom with an axe results in having two brooms instead of one—with predictably disastrous results.  Only the sorcerer, upon his return, is able to stop the mayhem.  Dukas composed the musical interpretation in 1897, and it premiered in Paris just days after its completion.  The work’s enduring popularity was no doubt secured by its inclusion in Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film, Fantasia, in which Mickey Mouse is featured as the hapless apprentice.  The orchestration is very rich, including full woodwind and brass sections (no tuba), timpani, a busy percussion section, harp, and strings.


Sergei Prokofiev began sketches for his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Opus 26, as early as 1913, finally completing the work in 1921.  The premiere performance took place in Chicago in December of that year, featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock, with the composer as piano soloist.  While not initially well received, it ultimately became the best known and most popular of the five piano concertos, and is a very demanding work for both orchestra and soloist alike.  It is scored for full woodwinds plus piccolo, full brass (minus tuba), timpani, percussion, and strings.  Prokofiev’s versatility, both in styles and in moods, is on full display here.  The first movement is a relatively straightforward sonata form, followed by a Theme & Variations second movement.  The last movement is a fairly symmetrical arch form, featuring a bouncy first theme and a beautifully lyrical second theme, with a bridge for solo piano acting as the keystone.  This concerto is performed by the winning contestant in Joel Oliansky’s 1980 film, The Competition, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving;  the movie is a drama that takes the viewer behind the scenes of a piano competition.


Adolphus Hailstork’s An American Port of Call, was commissioned by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, who premiered it in 1985.  From the composer:  “The concert overture, in sonata-allegro form, captures the strident (and occasionally tender, and even mysterious) energy of a busy American port city.  The great port of Norfolk, Virginia, where I live, was the direct inspiration.”  The work has been compared to Sir William Walton's Portsmouth Point, as both are short orchestral works that depict a busy seaport.  It is very energetic, with strong rhythmic gestures interspersed with moments of relaxation.  The scoring is for a  sizable orchestra that includes a full complement of woodwinds (including piccolo and contrabassoon), brass, timpani, a large group of percussion instruments, and strings.


Rhapsody in BlueGeorge Gershwin’s best known and most loved work, was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman.  Composition began in January of 1924;  its premiere took place five weeks later, with Gershwin as piano soloist  along with Whiteman’s Palais Royal Orchestra, in New York City’s Aeolian Hall.  The first successful fusion of formal classical and jazz elements, the Rhapsody begins with the most recognisable clarinet solo in the repertoire.  Originally scored for piano and jazz band, Ferde Grofé, Whiteman’s chief arranger, made an alternate version for conventional symphonic forces in 1942.  The work is divided into several sections, with the piano a prominent presence throughout, including several extended solos.  Featured as background music for United Airlines advertisments since the mid-80s, if any work can be said to musically define America from its very first note, it is surely this one.