SASO Souvenirs of the Oaxaca Opera Festival

D.R. Ransdell

SASO violinist (and mystery novelist) D.R. Ransdell reports on the orchestra’s second annual visit to the Oaxaca Opera Festival, culminating in concerts Aug. 9 and 10, 2014. You can read all about it, and see colorful photos, at her own blog.

Concert Archives: Novák’s “Moravian-Slovak Suite”

On Feb. 18, 2001, then-music director Warren Cohen led the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in a rare performance of Vitezslav Novák’s Moravian-Slovak Suite. Composed in 1903, it’s a sequence of tone pictures: “In the Church,” “Among Children,” “The Amorous Couple,” “The Country Musicians,” and “At Night.” Listen to SASO perform the suite in concert at…

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Playing Beethoven’s Ninth, from the Inside

SASO violinist—and novelist, and mariachi musician—D.R. Ransdell reveals what it was like to struggle through, and ultimately succeed in, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra at her own blog.

Program Notes for Our May, 2014 Concerts

By Tim Secomb Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Festive Overture in 1947 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. First performed in 1954, it is unusual among Shostakovich’s works for its gaiety and lack of introspection. Perhaps the composer consciously wrote in this populist style to make fun of the artistic censorship imposed on…

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SASO Plays the World’s Most Popular Guitar Concerto

By Punch Howarth Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra will be a respite between a hectic gallop in the Shostakovich Festive Overture and the overpoweringly dramatic Symphony No.  9 of Beethoven for the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra’s season finale. Rodrigo (1901–99) was born in Sagunto, Spain and at age 3 lost most of…

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Beethoven’s Mighty Ninth to be Performed in May

Linus Lerner will conduct the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, SASO Chorus, and soloists in a season-closing presentation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in d minor, Op. 125, “The Choral.” This work is acknowledged to be the greatest symphony ever composed, and greatly influenced later composers of orchestra music, particularly Brahms and Mahler.

Video: Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, second movement, with Edwin E. Soo Kim

It’s been a while since we posted the first movement, so without further delay, here’s the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, featuring Edwin E. Soo Kim, one of our most acclaimed guest soloists, with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, recorded Nov. 10, 2013 at Tucson’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Rebecca Shiao Will Perform Prokofiev with SASO

Rebecca Shiao is this year’s winner of the Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition and will play the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on April 5 and 6. Ms. Shiao is a 17-year-old senior at Catalina Foothills High School and is a very talented student of Susan Chu.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 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.
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.
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."