‘Lesser’ of Beethoven’s Concertos on SASO Program

It’s not often you get to hear Beethoven’s Triple Concerto performed live.

It’s hard to say why, although some might cite its length — just under 40 minutes in all, with half of that devoted to the first movement. Others will say that of all Beethoven’s concertos — this being his only one composed for more than one solo instrument — this one is largely dismissed as the least among his works.

Frankly, the criticism is unwarranted. The Triple Concerto is a lively work that in the right hands can be downright fun. We witnessed that side of the piece when the Eroica Trio performed it with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in late 2012.

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is aiming for a similar outcome when the volunteer ensemble, led by Conductor Linus Lerner, performs the concerto alongside Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8.

The trio of soloists features Tucson luthier and SASO Principal Cellist Zoran Stilin, who will perform a newly crafted cello. Husband and wife violinist Edwin E. Soo Kim and pianist Melanie Chae, both born in South Korea and educated in Europe, round out the trio.

The concerto will follow another little-played work, the “Light Cavalry” Overture from Franz von Suppé’s operetta “Light Cavalry” Don’t feel badly if you’ve never heard of it; the 1866 operetta never caught fire, although the overture has certainly found a life of its own as a concert piece.

SASO will perform the concert three times this weekend: 7 p.m. Friday at Green Valley’s Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino del Sol; 7:30 p.m. Saturday at SaddleBrooke’s DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive; and 3 p.m. Sunday at Oro Valley’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte. Tickets are $23 for the Green Valley and Oro Valley shows at sasomusic.org and $24 for SaddleBrooke at tickets.saddlebrooketwo.com

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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 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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