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Strauss & Beethoven

Strauss & Beethoven

Tito Muñoz, conductor
Conrad Tao, piano
Maria Valdes, soprano

Tito Muñoz leads The Phoenix Symphony in two works by Richard Strauss, his witty tone poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, and his aptly-named Four Last Songs, a noble statement about a life well lived, featuring radiant soprano Maria Valdes as soloist. The dynamic pianist Conrad Tao joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, a pinnacle of the repertoire as well as the final work for piano and orchestra that Beethoven performed personally. Opening the program is Christopher Cerrone’s The Age of Wire and String, a six-part orchestral suite that Cerrone composed especially for his good friend Tito Muñoz to premiere.

Concert Repertoire
Christopher Cerrone: The Age of Wire and String
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
R. Strauss: Four Last Songs (Sung in German)
R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks

English and Spanish translation projected above the stage.




About Conrad Tao

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.Tao has performed as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony. As a composer, his work has been performed by orchestras throughout the world; his first large scale orchestral work, Everything Must Go, received its world premiere with the New York Philharmonic, and its European premiere with the Antwerp Symphony, and he was the recipient of a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, for Outstanding Sound Design / Music Composition, for his work on More Forever, in collaboration with dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher. He is also 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.

In the 2023-24 season, Tao makes his subscription debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Gershwin’s Concerto in F major with James Gaffigan. He also re-unites with the New York Philharmonic to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, following his curated program for them last season as part of the Artist Spotlight series. Meanwhile, he celebrates the 100th anniversary of Rhapsody in Blue with multiple performances of the work and a new companion piece commissioned from him by the Santa Rosa Symphony. His return engagements include performances with the Cincinnati Symphony alongside Matthias Pintscher, the Oregon Symphony alongside David Danzmayr, and the Seattle Symphony, whom he play-directs in Conrad Tao’s Playlist, weaving Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 into an adventurous program of Stravinsky, Purcell, Linda Catlin Smith, and Morton Feldman. As part of the celebration of Rachmaninoff’s 150th birthday, Tao brings Rachmaninoff Songbook to the 92NY and Germany’s Klavierfestival Ruhr, presenting a direct line from Rachmaninoff to the music of Billy Strayhorn, Harold Arlen, and Stephen Sondheim.

In a concert curated by Tao himself, Tao invites UK-based new-music collective Distractfold to make their NYC debut at Kaufman Music Center with the world premiere of Andrew Greenwald’s A Thing Made Whole VIII along with music by Jürg Frey, Hanna Hartman and Mauricio Pauly. This season also includes performances with dancer Caleb Teicher in the duo’s Counterpoint program, which synthesizes the two seemingly disparate artforms of piano and tap dance. More collaborations include a multi-city tour throughout the season with the Junction Trio, including a program of John Zorn, Ives, and Beethoven at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the trio’s Detroit debut, among many others.

In the 2022-23 season, Tao performed Mozart with the New York Philharmonic, for whom he also curated a program for their Artist Spotlight series, featuring collaborations with vocalist Charmaine Lee, and wind ensemble The Westerlies. Tao also made an appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom and the San Francisco Symphony, both as a soloist in Gershwin’s Concerto in F major at Davies Symphony Hall, and as a curator for their SoundBox series. In Washington, DC, he made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra performing Shostakovich with Dalia Staveska, and, following Atlanta Symphony’s premiere of his Violin Concerto with Stefan Jackiw in 2021, he appeared as soloist with the orchestra performing Ravel with Ryan Bancroft. After their successful collaboration with the Finnish Radio Symphony, Tao further re-united with Hannu Lintu to perform Tchaikovsky with the Naples Philharmonic, as well as returned to Finland to open the season with the Tampere Philharmonic and Santtu-Matias Rouvali.

A Warner Classics recording artist, Tao’s debut disc Voyages was declared a “spiky debut” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross. Of the album, NPR wrote: “Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means”. His next album, Pictures, with works by David Lang, Toru Takemitsu, Elliott Carter, Mussorgsky, and Tao himself, was hailed by The New York Times as “a fascinating album [by] a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer…played with enormous imagination, color and command.” His third album, American Rage, featuring works by Julia Wolfe, Frederic Rzewski, and Aaron Copland, was released in the fall of 2019. In 2021, Tao and brass quartet The Westerlies released Bricolage, an album of improvisations and experiments recorded in a small cabin in rural New Hampshire in June 2019.

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.


About Maria Valdes

American soprano Maria Valdes was recently described as a “first-rate singing actress and a perfectly charming Gilda” (New York Times). During the 2021-2022 season, Ms. Valdes made her Georgia Symphony Orchestra debut as the soprano soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, returned to Berkshire Opera Festival for a recital of Mozart selections and made her Hawaii Opera Theater debut as Micaëla in Peter Brook’s La tragédie de Carmen. She will also return to The Phoenix Symphony as the soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, debut the role of Maria in The Sound of Music with Charlottesville Opera and The Ellen Theater, joined Berkshire Lyric for Mozart’s Requiem and Laudate Dominum in the prestigious Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, made her Gulf Coast Symphony debut as the soprano soloist in a concert titled “A Grand Night of Opera” and returned to the Bellingham Festival of Music to sing a concert of Strauss lieder and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. During the 2022-203 season, Ms. Valdes will make her Metropolitan Opera debut covering Papagena in The Magic Flute, returns to Atlanta Opera as Amy in The Snowy Day, returns to Hawaii Opera Theater as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, and makes her San Jose Symphony debut singing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Carmina Burana. She also joins Madison Chamber Music Festival for a recital.

In the concert realm, Ms. Valdes recently made a debut with the Virginia Symphony and returned to the Pheonix Symphony as the soprano soloist in Messiah, joined the Brooklyn Art Song Society singing Chants d’Auvergne by Joseph Canteloube, as well as, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra singing Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughn Williams and Bach Cantata No. 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott”.

Also an accomplished recitalist, Ms. Valdes has appeared in concert with Martin Katz, and made her New York recital debut with NYFOS performing with Steven Blier and Michael Barrett in Compositora, a recital of female Latin American composers. She also attended the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival which included several concert appearances and Ms. Valdes can be heard singing Mendelssohn’s “Hear my prayer” on the album Evening Hymn released by Gothic Records and acclaimed in the American Record Guide. An award-winner in the regional Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, Ms. Valdes is also the winner of the top prize at the Corbett Opera Scholarship Competition at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is the recipient of a Shoshana Foundation Grant.

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March 22-24

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