SASO Features Cellist Zoran Stilin & Brahms Symphony No. 1

TUCSON, AZ – Cellist Zoran Stilin will perform Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 15 and 16, performing on an award-winning cello he made himself.

The program also features Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor and Danzón No. 2 by contemporary Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.

Stilin is a native of Zagreb, Croatia and a prize-winner of the former Yugoslavia National Cello Competition. He was a performing soloist with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio-Television Orchestra, Music Academy Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra “Gaudemus.” He continued his studies in Switzerland and later came to the University of Arizona, where he completed a master of music degree, studying with Gordon Epperson and Peter Rejto.

Since moving to Arizona, Stilin developed his skills as a restorer and maker of fine string instruments. He was a student of the late Karl Roy, a German violin maker and one of the world’s leading authorities on violin making. Stilin’s instruments and bows have won top awards at the Violin Makers Association of Arizona International Competition. He is principal cellist of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and an active solo and chamber musician. Stilin has soloed several times with SASO.

Schelomo, which Bloch called a “Hebraic rhapsody,” is his best-known work. Schelomo is the Hebrew name for Solomon. Bloch once wrote, “One may imagine that the voice of the cello is the voice of King Solomon. The complex voice of the orchestra is the voice of his age, the world, his experience. There are times when the orchestra seems to reflect his thoughts, just as the cello voices his words.”

Early in Brahms’ career, his fame as a composer was boosted when Robert Schumann wrote a glowing article about him. Yet Brahms was a perfectionistic critic of his own work and struggled years before finally completing his long-awaited first symphony at the age 42. The slow gestation stemmed in part from trepidation of following in the footsteps of Beethoven, who had penned nine of the world’s best symphonies. Critics and audience found the Brahms work worth the wait. It has been said that his symphonies – four in all – “lasted through the centuries thanks to their verve, freedom and complexity.”

Music Director Linus Lerner will conduct. Born in Brazil, Lerner has led orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and China. SASO has toured China twice under his baton, and this summer performed at the inaugural Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico. Lerner also is music director of the Symphony Orchestra Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil.

The concerts will be presented Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive in SaddleBrooke and again on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson.

Tickets to the SaddleBrooke concert are $21 in advance or $23 at the door. Call 825-2818 or order online at http://tickets/saddlebrooketwo.com.

Tickets to the St. Andrews concert are $20 can be ordered by phone at 308-6226 or online at www.sasomusic.org. Tickets also can be purchased at the door. Complimentary tickets are available at the St. Andrews performance for students age 17 or younger.

The remaining SASO concerts this season are:

  • Apr. 5 and Apr. 6 – Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Pervez Mody, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, plus the winner of SASO’s Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition.
  • May 10 and May 11 – Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with guitarist Roberto Capocchi and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Southern Arizona Symphony Chorus and other vocalists.

Founded in 1979, SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. The orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. For more information, visit www.sasomusic.org or call 308-6226.

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SASO’s Story

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