SASO performs Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra welcomes three international guest artists Nov. 7 and 8 for concerts featuring the music of Sibelius, Mendelssohn and Vaughan Williams.

Bulgarian brothers Ivo and Lachezar Stankov share the spotlight in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings, written by the child prodigy in his early teens and described as “clearly the work of an enthusiastic virtuoso” with an “ingenious mix of Baroque, Classical and Romantic styles.”

The program also includes Sibelius’ Karelia Overture and Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony.

Violinist Ivo is considered “a stunning virtuoso” who has captivated audiences in the United Kingdom and Europe with his commanding style and spirited performances. His debut CD was recently awarded five stars by Musical Opinion magazine.  One newspaper reported, “He has the skill to weave the thread of emotion in every work, so that he may reach the hearts of the audience.”

His brother Lachezar began playing piano at age nine. By 16 he performed with the Varna and Shumen Philharmonic Orchestras in Bulgaria, earning acclaim from critics and audiences alike. He has won national and international prizes and awards, including the coveted ABRSM International Full Scholarship in 2005 to study at the Royal College of Music in London. He’s performed concertos with orchestras in Bulgaria, Europe, the United Kingdom – and now the United States.

The featured conductor for this pair of concerts is Nicholas Armstrong, who was born in the village of Bursledon in the south of England. He studied composition and viola in Bristol, then conducting in Venice, where he was a member of the Teatro La Fenice orchestra before moving to the United States. He is currently in his 19th season as artistic director for the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra.

English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his Fifth Symphony during World War II. It is a quiet, contemplative work derived from the unfinished opera The Pilgrim’s Progress, which he had labored on for many years and later completed. Although tranquil on the surface, the symphony has underlying harmonic tensions, which are subtly expressed through the composer’s skillful orchestration. It was dedicated to Sibelius, who later said, “This symphony is a marvelous work.”

This SASO program opens with music by Sibelius. His Karelia Overture is based on the folk music of the Karelian region of Finland – said to capture “essence of folk music” rather than quoting specific melodies.

The first SASO performance will be Saturday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the SaddleBrooke Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke, north of the town of Catalina. Tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. They can be ordered online at http://tickets.saddlebrooketwo.com or by calling 825-2818.This performance is sponsored by Corbett and Pat Alley.

 The second SASO concert will be Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte. Individual tickets at St. Andrews are $23 for adults and complimentary for ages 17 and under. Order online at www.sasomusic.org or by calling 308-6226.  This performance is sponsored by John and Kathie Heitmann.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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