Program notes for Oct. 4-5 concerts

By Tim Secomb

The French composer Hector Berlioz was very influential in the development of the modern orchestra, particularly through his Treatise on Instrumentation, and also in the development of musical Romanticism. Like many other composers, Berlioz was inspired by Goethe’s dramatic poem Faust. His La damnation de Faust (The Damnation of Faust) is a work for four solo voices, full seven-part chorus, large children’s chorus and orchestra. It is a musical work that defies easy categorization and is difficult to stage, so that its fame has come mainly through concert performances. Berlioz had previously made an arrangement of the Rákóczy March, the unofficial Hungarian national anthem. When this proved a great success at a performance in Pest, Hungary, Berlioz decided to place the opening of his Faust story in Hungary and incorporated the Rákóczy March into the score.

The piano concerto was one of Mozart‘s favorite forms, and he wrote more than twenty of them, often performing them himself. He first performed the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C in a concert he organized in Vienna, in March, 1785. To protect himself from pirate music publishers, Mozart performed from a cryptic manuscript, with just the bass line and a few passages sketched in. The first movement is majestic, even military in style, with trumpets and timpani. The march-like opening theme is stated in an orchestral introduction, then the piano enters, soon moving to a wonderful second theme. In the sublime slow movement, extended song-like themes float over a gently pulsing accompaniment. This movement surged in popularity some years ago when it was used in the movie Elvira Madigan. The brilliant last movement, full of surprises and jokes, evokes the atmosphere of Mozart’s comic operas.

English composer and teacher Gustav Holst was born into a family that included several generations of musicians. As a child, he learned piano, violin and trombone, and he started composing when he was about 12. Holst became fascinated by astrology in 1913, and a friend suggested to him that he write a piece based on astrological concepts. The result was The Planets, a seven-movement orchestral suite. Each movement is named after a planet of the solar system and is intended to convey ideas and emotions associated with the astrological influence of the planets on the psyche, not the Roman deities after whom the planets are named. When composing The Planets, Holst initially scored the work for piano duet, except for Neptune, which was scored for organ. He then scored the suite for a large orchestra, in which form it became enormously popular. His orchestration was very imaginative and colorful, showing the influence of such composers as Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Its novel sonorities helped make the work an immediate success with audiences. Although The Planets remains Holst’s most popular work, the composer himself did not consider it among his best creations and later complained that its popularity had surpassed his other works. He was, however, partial to his own favorite movement, Saturn.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
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 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.
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