Italian guest conductor, Polish violinist star in SASO’s international celebration Nov. 8–9

The international music celebration of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra this season continues on Nov. 8 and 9 with Gabriele Pezone of Italy as guest conductor and Marta Magdalena Lelek of Poland performing a violin concerto by fellow countryman Andrzej Panufnik.

The Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra was originally commissioned, premiered and recorded by Yehudi Menuhin with Panufnik conducting. The Warsaw-born composer had fled the Communist regime in Poland, settled in England and become a British citizen. Sir Andrzej was knighted for his services to British music in 1991. “In all my works,” he has said, “I attempt to achieve a true balance between feeling and intellect, heart and brain, impulse and design.”

Soloist Lelek seeks out interesting, rarely performed, often contemporary compositions. In 2012 she recorded Malta-born Karl Fiorini’s second violin concerto, which was written for and dedicated to her. She premiered the work in Bangkok with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded it for Naxos.

Lelek began her studies at the age of 9 and soon won many prizes and awards. She was invited to study at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where she completed a bachelor’s degree with honors in 2003 and two years later a master’s degree with distinction in performance.

Pezone made his conducting debut in 2007 and since has led orchestras in Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Turkey, the Yucatan in February and now the United States. He’ll open the SASO concert conducting Rossini’s Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri.

He graduated in piano at the Ottorino Respighi Conservatory in Latina, Italy. He also studied organ, composition, choral music and choral conducting. He attended the three-year course of liturgical ministries of the Diocese of Rome. Pezone is founder of the Fondi Chamber Orchestra with which he recently recorded for Vatican Radio with the Italian-American pianist Natalie Gabrielli.

This SASO program also features Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5. Of all his symphonies, this one is scored for the smallest orchestra, with no clarinets, trumpets or timpani, and mirrors the style of Mozart.

SASO Music Director Linus Lerner said this is a charmingly happy and sunny work, unlike some of Schubert’s later darker compositions. Born in Austria, Schubert greatly admired Mozart and is oft quoted as saying, “O Mozart … what countless images of a brighter, better world hast thou stamped on our souls.”

As a child, Schubert demonstrated an early gift for music, playing piano, violin and organ. He also was an excellent singer and prolific composer who died even younger than Mozart at age 31.

The SASO concerts will be presented Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive in SaddleBrooke and Sunday, Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson.

Tickets to the SaddleBrooke concert are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. Call 825-2818 or order online at http://tickets/saddlebrooketwo.com. Tickets to the St. Andrew’s concert are $23 and can be ordered online at www.sasomusic.org, by phone at 308-6226 or purchased at the door. Complimentary tickets are available at the St. Andrew’s performance for students age 17 or younger.

Longtime SASO supporter Dorothy Vanek is the season sponsor for the eighth consecutive year. The SaddleBrooke concert sponsors are Bob and Donna Langwig and Michael and Frances Leonard. The St. Andrew’s concert sponsor is Bo Saxberg.

Lerner will return to the podium for the three remaining spring concert cycles. He’s conducted orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups around the world, including Brazil, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Mexico, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

The February and April programs include performances on Friday at 7 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church in Green Valley, in addition to concerts at SaddleBrooke on Saturday evening and St. Andrew’s on Sunday afternoon.

Feb. 20, 21 & 22—Beethoven’s rarely performed Triple Concerto features Korean-born pianist Melanie Chae and her violinist husband, Edwin E. Soo Kim, plus Zoran Stilin, who moved to Tucson from Croatia. The program also includes Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8.

April 10, 11 & 12—SASO’s principal trumpet, Michael Kiefer, composed Psalm 22, which SASO premieres. The program also includes Martinu’s Rhapsody-Concerto, with China-born violist Hong-Mei Xiao as soloist, and Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite.

May 9 & 10—The final program features Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with all-American Chloe Trevor and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

This year SASO released its first professional recordingCELEBRATION!showcasing the diverse musical range of six Tucson composers. The 75-minute CD is on sale now at www.sasomusic.org for $18.50 including shipping.

This orchestra is a vital community resource that has united performers and audiences through a passion for music. Founded in 1979, SASO presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. It also sponsors the annual Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition. To learn more, call 308-6226 or visit www.sasomusic.org.

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SASO’s Story

Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
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