Classics Series

Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto

conrad_sideWednesday, July 1, 2015
6:30pm Concert Insights*, 7:30pm Show
Tickets $68-$12
Amaral Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds
Constantine Kitsopoulos, Conductor
Add the Bravo Package– just $25 per Classics Series concert gets you a post-concert champagne party at each of the three concerts! (Limited number of tickets available)
*Concert Insights: Join us for a pre-concert forum at each of the Classics Series concerts where the conductor takes us behind the scenes.  Talks take place in the Amaral concert hall at 6:30pm.


Beethoven’s epic last piano concerto, featuring Conrad Tao, pianist, and Verdi’s Nabucco Overture and the monumental Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 is the story of a heroic struggle ending in victory.  The composer’s last piano concerto dates from the beginning of May 1809, when, with Napoleon’s army besieging Vienna, the Austrian Imperial family and all of the court, fled the city. On May 11 the French artillery, which commanded the heights of the surrounding countryside and had penetrated outlying portions of the city proper, was activated. Beethoven’s house stood perilously close to the line of fire.  After the summer Beethoven was able to get away from the city and return to composing.  It was written between 1809 and 1811 in Vienna, and was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, Beethoven’s patron and pupil. The first performance took place in November 1811, at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the soloist being Friedrich Schneider. In 1812, Carl Czerny, his student, gave the Vienna debut of this work.  The epithet of “Emperor” for this concerto, was not Beethoven’s own, but was coined by Johann Baptist Cramer, the English publisher of the concerto.

Verdi’s Nabucco retells the biblical story of the slavery and eventual exile of the Jews under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In spite of the dark story, the score is full of memorable melodies. In fact, one of Verdi’s biggest hits is the Act III chorus, “Va pensiero,” in which the Hebrew slaves sing wistfully of their lost homeland. Over the course of the 19th century, the tune came to be a popular anthem of the Italian Risorgimento, the political movement that pushed out foreign powers and unified the Italian peninsula as a single kingdom. Like most of Verdi’s opera overtures, Nabucco is a potpourri of themes, most of which reappear in the opera. After a stately introduction in the brass and a more sinister transition, Verdi spins a gentle variation on “Va pensiero,” heard first in the oboe and clarinet playing in octaves. In the faster music that follows, the overture juxtaposes different themes associated with the Hebrew slaves and with their Babylonian captors, neatly foreshadowing the opera’s central conflict.

Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 was started in winter 1901 in Rapallo, Italy, and finished in 1902 in Finland. It was first performed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Society on 8 March 1902, with the composer conducting. Immediately after its premiere on March 8, 1902, the Symphony was appropriated as an emblem of national liberation. The hard times the Grand Duchy of Finland was going through during the ‘russification program’ of Tsar Nikolai II in the years 1899-1905 spontaneously invited such an interpretation. But it was Robert Kajanus, founder and conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, who put it in words: “The Andante strikes one as the most broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and our flowers of their scent. … The scherzo gives a picture of frenetic preparation. Everyone piles his straw on the haystack, all fibers are strained and every second seems to last an hour. One senses in the contrasting trio section with its oboe motive in G-flat major what is at stake. The finale develops towards a triumphant conclusion intended to rouse in the listener a picture of lighter and confident prospects for the future.”  Sibelius categorically denied any such programmatic readings, claiming that his symphonies are pure absolute music.

About Conrad Tao: Conrad 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 Conrad 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, Conrad was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation.

During the 2014-2015 season, Conrad serves as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, performing solo recitals, chamber music, and concertos. He continues his formidable globe-trotting career as a pianist with performances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Malaysia, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, and the Toronto Symphony, among others. He also collaborates with the young musicians of the New York Youth Symphony, whose season he inaugurates in Carnegie Hall, and the Hawai’i Youth Symphony. In Europe, he will be returning to perform with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm, and the Bern Symphony in Switzerland. He also performs recitals in Europe and throughout the United States with repertoire ranging from Bach to Toru Takemitsu to Julia Wolfe.

Love the classics? We suggest becoming a SummerFest Classics Series subscriber. Save 20% on the single ticket price for incredible performances such as The Glory of the Russian Ballet (6/24), The Mozart Requiem (6/28), and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto featuring Conrad Tao (7/1). Season subscription tickets may be purchased up until the first classical concert date—June 24.   CLICK HERE FOR AN ORDER FORM! Contact the MIM Box Office to place your season subscription order (530) 265-6124