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RHAPSODY IN BLUE AND BILLY THE KID - Classic

Tucson Music Hall
Friday, February 17, 2017, 7:30pm
Sunday, February 19, 2017, 2pm

James Judd, conductor
Conrad Tao, piano

Kevin Puts: Two Mountain Scenes TSO PREMIERE
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin: “I Got Rhythm” variations
Roberto Sierra: Fandangos TSO PREMIERE
Copland: Billy the Kid Suite

Twenty-one year old Conrad Tao, one of the hottest young musicians in America, makes his TSO debut performing Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue. Dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, Tao is a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, a recipient of the Avery Fisher career grant award and the only classical artist named by Forbes magazine in 2011 as one of the “30 Under 30” in the music industry. Gershwin’s Variations on “I Got Rhythm” swings while Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos adds some Latin flavor to the mix. Then take a deep breath of fresh air as Kevin Puts’ Two Mountain Scenes before Copland favorite Billy the Kid makes a rousing appearance!

A showpiece for piano and orchestra, Rhapsody in Blue was an immediate hit for the 25 year old George Gershwin. It premiered in February, 1924 and by the end of the year, the recording had sold more than a million copies. It has since become a mainstay of the modern classical symphonic repertoire. Gershwin said he heard it as “a musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness.”

Rhapsody in Blue was such a hit that in 1934, Gershwin was offered a month-long concert tour with the renowned Leo Reisman Orchestra to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its premiere. He wanted a new piece to perform since he was the featured soloist. “I Got Rhythm” was the most popular song from his hit 1930 musical, Girl Crazy, so he crafted “I Got Rhythm” Variations.

Billy the Kid is one of Aaron Copland’s most popular works, originally composed for the Ballet Caravan Company in Chicago. True to his composing style, the ballet score incorporates several cowboy tunes along with folk songs. It is a celebration of the American Pioneer West as much as a work centered on the infamous bandit.

Also celebrating the American West is the program opener, Kevin Puts’ Two Mountain Scenes. Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the 20th anniversary of the Vail Valley Music Festival, Puts says the peaks and valleys and mountain storms of the Rockies inspired his music.  

Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos, composed in 2000, incorporates elements from fandangos by Boccherini and Scarlatti as well as the composer’s own Baroque influences.  Its bright, cheerful and fun sound has made it a popular piece to record and perform.

British born conductor James Judd came to international attention as the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he accepted at the invitation of Lorin Maazel. He has also held posts at the Florida Philharmonic and New Zealand Symphony where he brought the orchestra to a new level of visibility and international renown through appearances at the 2000 Summer Sydney Olympics Arts Festival and a specially televised Millennium concert with Kiri Te Kanawa as soloist.  In North and South America he is a frequent guest conductor, having appeared with the orchestras of St. Louis, Montreal, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Seattle, Indianapolis, Utah, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Complimentary “Concert Comments” with the conductor and guest artist take place one hour before the performance and give you insight into what you’re about to hear.