Winston-Salem Symphony to Present Season Finale Concert with Conrad Tao Featuring Stravinsky’s Suite from the Firebird

(Last Updated On: April 18, 2017)

Conrad Tao - courtesy Winston-Salem SymphonyWINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (APRIL 18, 2017) – The Winston-Salem Symphony, Robert Moody, Music Director, will end the 2016–2017 season with Kicked-Back Classics and Classics Series concerts on Saturday, May 20; Sunday, May 21; and Tuesday, May 23. The concerts will feature Igor Stravinsky’s career launching piece, Suite from The Firebird (1945 version), Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra with rising star pianist Conrad Tao, and a piece composed by Tao entitled The world is very different now.

“We are closing our season with a terrific concert featuring pieces by two towering twentieth-century composers,” said Maestro Robert Moody. “In addition, the extremely talented young pianist Conrad Tao is returning to Winston-Salem to perform not only Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra, but also to play a piece he composed about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This will be an exciting and dynamic concert. It’s a great way to end our 70th anniversary season!”

Under the baton of Maestro Moody, “Season Finale with Conrad Tao” will take place on Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 21 at 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Stevens Center of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, 405 West Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Tickets range from $20 – $67 and are available in advance by calling the Symphony Box Office at 336-464-0145 or online at

The Saturday, May 20 performance is part of the Kicked-Back Classics Series. Kicked-Back Classics concerts are full-length but have a more informal atmosphere and include educational insights from the conductor.

Several pre-concert programs will take place and will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming Classics concerts:

Musical Morning, a lively and informative pre-concert program featuring Winston-Salem Symphony Assistant Conductor Jessica Morel, will take place on Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m. at Salemtowne Retirement Community, located at 190 Moravian Way in Winston-Salem. This event is free and open to the public and includes light refreshments. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 336. 725.1035, extension 227.

Music Lovers’ Luncheon, a fun and informative pre-concert lunch with Maestro Moody and guest pianist Conrad Tao will take place Friday, May 19 at noon at 1703 Restaurant, located at 1703 Robinhood Road in Winston-Salem. The luncheon is $20 per person and is a great opportunity to learn more about the concert in a relaxed atmosphere. Reservations are requested for the Music Lovers’ Luncheon and can be made by calling 336.464.0145.

The concerts will open with Suite from The Firebird (1945 version) by one of the twentieth century’s most important and influential composers, Igor Stravinsky. The great ballet producer, Sergei Diaghilev, enlisted Stravinsky to compose a score for the Ballet Russe’s production of The Firebird. The success of Stravinsky’s score catapulted the young composer to the forefront of the music world. In The Firebird, Stravinsky stretched the boundaries of traditional tonality by incorporating chromatic and at times dissonant harmonies, folk-melodies, and off-beat rhythms into the piece. The Firebird is the first of several collaborations by Stravinsky and Diaghilev. It was followed by the iconic Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.

Pianist Conrad Tao is not only an accomplished pianist but he is also a composer. His career as a composer has garnered eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and the Carlos Surinach Prize from BMI. In the 2013–2014 season, while serving as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, Tao premiered his orchestral composition, The world is very different now. Commissioned in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the work was described by The New York Times as “shapely and powerful.”

Tao describes the piece this way: “The world is very different now is ultimately about memory. I wanted to explore the way this assassination was an event associated with a myriad of specific and individual memories; it is one of those epoch-making events where everyone remembers “where they were.” Those hyperreal, unique memories intersect with historical narrative, the writing of which is in many ways a process of memory formation as well. I wanted to write a piece that explored the reverberations of these many memories and experiences. The work opens with swells of sound and disembodied bugle calls before slowly coalescing into a lush, romantic melody: a “lament for Camelot,” an imagining of collective grief through a sort of glamorous, rose-tinted lens. That melody is then pulled apart as it passes through other perspectives, other memories; simultaneously, it is subverted by the righteous tumult of the late ‘60s. A “voice of unreason” emerges in the form of an alto saxophone from the ensuing wall of sound, ushering in sparse strands of personal memory and narrative. Those strands intertwine as the piece ends with a look ahead at a cautiously optimistic and uncertain future.”

The concert will close with Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra.  Prokofiev was another leading twentieth-century composer and this concerto is an immensely popular work. As David Levy, Professor of Music at Wake Forest University, states in his concert notes: “The reasons for this popularity are evident enough to anyone who has heard the work and has admired its immense energy, brilliant virtuosity, wit, and sweeping lyricism. Of the five concertos for piano penned by the Russian master, this is the most frequently performed.”

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.

Tao has performed with renowned symphony orchestras in Europe and throughout the United States with repertoire ranging from Bach to Frederic Rzewski to Rachmaninoff to Julia Wolfe. Past notable symphonic engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Toronto Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Detroit Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and Nashville Symphony. Tao maintains a close relationship with the Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Brevard Music Center, Ravinia Festival, and Mostly Mozart Festival.

In June of 2013, Tao kicked off the inaugural UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, which he curated and produced. The festival, designated a “critics’ pick” by TimeOut

New York and hailed by The New York Times for its “clever organization” and “endlessly engaging” performances, featured Tao 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 twenty-first century canon, and music’s role in social activism and critique.

Tao was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1994. He has studied piano with Emilio del Rosario in Chicago and Yoheved Kaplinsky in New York, and composition with Christopher Theofanidis.

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This concert and the Winston-Salem Symphony are sponsored by Season Presenting Sponsors Bell, Davis, & Pitt, P.A. and BB&T; Classics Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo The Private Bank; Kicked-Back Classics Series Underwriters Chris & Mike Morykwas; 89.9 FM WDAV Classical Public Radio as well as the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County and the North Carolina Arts Council.

About the Winston-Salem Symphony – The Winston-Salem Symphony, one of the Southeast’s most highly regarded regional orchestras, began its 70th anniversary performance season in September 2016. Under the baton of Music Director Robert Moody, the season includes a special 70th anniversary opening gala concert, Classics and Kicked-Back Classics series, Plugged-In Pops series, Discovery Concerts for Kids, annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, a concert featuring Winston-Salem Symphony and Youth Symphony musicians, holiday concerts, three youth orchestra ensembles, and a multitude of educational and community engagement programs. The Symphony is supported by Season Presenting Sponsors Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A. and BB&T, as well as generous funding from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and other dedicated sponsors. For more information, visit