Spellbinding! Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 by Keyboard-Wonder Conrad Tao and Beethoven’s Brilliant “Eroica”

Conrad TaoPowerhouse performances make for a breathtaking evening when Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, performs Beethoven’s dramatic “Eroica” Symphony on a program that includes another musical marvel, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by Chinese-American sensation Conrad Tao. The calm, controlled opening of Prokofiev’s Concerto disarms the audience for the tumult that’s to come—scales swoop through the orchestra and the keyboard explodes as Tao performs his magic. Now 21, the pianist has been called “the most exciting prodigy to ever come my way” by a music critic at Musical America, while The New York Times says he plays with “fiery panache” and New York Magazine lauds his “aggressive charm and flashes of genuine wisdom.”

Conrad TaoOn the second half of the concert, Beethoven’s popular third symphony—filled with drama, death, resistance, strife and ultimate rebirth—provides a thrilling conclusion to the evening. If one symphony can be called a turning point in the way Beethoven and the world viewed the form, it is the “Eroica.” Where Beethoven’s first two symphonies are graceful and decorously Classical, with the influence of Haydn and Mozart clearly heard, the Symphony No. 3 is a bold musical utterance that is longer in duration and bolder in its ideas than were its predecessors—literally a heroic symphony. The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 3-5, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets range from $25-$110. A preview talk begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (714) 755-5799 or Click Here.

“I look forward to the piece’s rogue wink, its madcap chase scenes, its moments of sweeping romanticism,” says Tao of Prokofiev’s piece. “I’ve had a distinct place in my heart for this piece ever since it helped launch my career via a concerto competition back in 2006, in which I was the only participant. (My preferred kind of competition.)”

Conrad Tao

Despite his young age, Tao has quite a history with Pacific Symphony; this will be his fourth performance with the orchestra. The virtuoso was just 16 years old when he first visited in June 2011, filling in at the last-minute for an ailing Yuja Wang and leaving the audience awe-struck by the magnitude of his talent as he took on Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” The pianist’s tremendous power and blazing speed (required for this Russian showpiece), belied his youthful appearance and ensured his swift return. In October 2012, Tao, by then 18, was asked back to tackle Grieg’s impassioned and demanding Piano Concerto, which he did with equal aplomb, another standing ovation and critical acclaim. Orange County Register’s Tim Mangan wrote: “The music was the thing. St.Clair and the orchestra supported {Tao} handsomely, and caught Tao’s fire.”

The Symphony began its 35th season with 19-year-old Tao, who was welcomed back like royalty. “Tao was the highlight of the evening,” wrote Mangan. “He took on Rachmaninoff’s daunting and infamous Piano Concerto No. 3, a most unreasonable work that he, somehow, made sound perfectly reasonable.”

“This is my fourth appearance with Pacific Symphony, and I’m so excited to be coming back!” enthuses Tao. “The Prokofiev has a more serrated blade than the Rachmaninov and Grieg works I've performed in years past, so that’ll be fun to sharpen at Segerstrom."