Musicians of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra recently returned from Brazil. The orchestra gave two performances at the Gramado In Concert International Music Festival. Gramado is picturesque town in the mountains of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, and is also home to an internationally known film festival.
The music festival was founded by Linus Lerner, the Music Director of SASO. The first festival was held in 2015 and the Tucson musicians played in the second festival, which took place from February 12 to February 21 and included an extensive program of recitals, master classes and concerts. More than two hundred musicians participated, including many students.
For these performances, forty SASO musicians were joined by about a dozen members of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte from Natal in northern Brazil. Linus Lerner, a native of Brazil, also directs that orchestra. Several players from other parts of Brazil also joined the orchestra. SASO players commented that the chance to meet and play alongside their Brazilian counterparts was a particularly rewarding aspect of the festival.
The concerts were given on Sunday February 14 and Tuesday February 16. Both programs include Morton Gould’s “American Salute” and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, known as “From the New World.” At each concert, the noted American violist Brett Deubner played a contemporary American viola concerto. At the first concert, Deubner gave the premiere performance of Max Wolpert’s Viola Concerto No. 1, “Giants.” At the second concert, he played Amanda Harberg’s Viola Concerto. Both concertos were dedicated to Deubner, and will be recorded with the orchestra in April for a planned CD.
The audiences responded with great enthusiasm to both performances. As an encore, the orchestra played an arrangement of “The Girl from Ipanema,” the 1962 hit song by Brazilian Antônio Carlos Jobim. After the encore, the audience continued to applaud and demanded an encore of the encore.
The Tuesday performance was scheduled to be given in an outdoor location covered by a large tent-like structure. Shortly before the concert, torrential rain fell and the structure was revealed to be not entirely watertight. The concert had to be moved to an indoor location. Despite the last-minute change, the orchestra still played to a full house.
Members of SASO are experienced travelers, having previously toured China twice and performed at the Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico the past three summers, giving performances under the direction of Linus Lerner.