Tchaikovsky dedicated his Fourth Symphony to his patroness, Madame von Meck, and wrote to her that she would find it "an echo of your most intimate thoughts and emotions." The first movement opens with a booming fanfare representing "Fate," and this motive carries throughout the work, oscillating with themes inspired by Russian folklore. Similarities have been drawn between this Symphony and Beethoven's Fifth, with the famous four opening notes representing fate knocking on the door.
"Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 starts with this impaling fate motive, which the composer called the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. It's very dramatic," says St.Clair. "The second movement is one of the most glorious and begins with a solo oboe, which is one reason why I chose to program Sibelius' 'Swan of Tuonela' with the English horn solo for the opening piece. The third movement was a unique moment in music history, because it has all of these pizzicatos where the strings are just plucking. At the time it was written, it was a very unique sound that one rarely heard. And of course, the finale, like most of Tchaikovsky's finales, is one with blazing virtuosity from the whole orchestra."
The only classical musician on Forbe' "30 Under 30" list of people changing the world, Tao was playing children's songs on the piano at 18 months of age. Born in Urbana, Ill., he gave his first piano recital at age 4; four years later, he made his concerto debut. In June 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named him a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, while the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a Young Arts gold medal in musiC. Later that year, he was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. In May 2012, he earned the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. As a composer, Tao has won eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards since 2004 and received BMI's Carlos Surinach prize in 2005. Saturday's concert is sponsored by VIna Williams and Tom Slattery. The appearance of Conrad Tao is underwritten by Sam B. Ersan. Pacific Symphony's Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines, The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC and PBS SoCal.