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Concert Archives: Creston’s Marimba Concertino

On Feb. 24, 2001, marimba soloist Gifford Howarth—at the time a percussion instructor at Penn State and at Nazareth College, more recently a professor at Bloomsburg University, and all along the nephew of SASO timpanist Harold Howarth—joined then-music director Warren Cohen and the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in the marimba concertino by prominent American composer Paul Creston…

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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…

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Preview of SASO’s Oct. 4-5 season opener

By Punch Howarth Linus Lerner again conducts the season opening concert by the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, on Oct. 4–5, 2013, featuring Gustav Holst’s The Planets, as well as music by Berlioz and Mozart. Opening the program is a stately Hungarian military march by Hector Berlioz. He labeled it Rakoczy March and it is from…

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Concert Archives: Cohen’s “Night Music”

On Feb. 24, 2001, then-music director Warren Cohen led the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of his own Night Music (Concerto Grosso No. 2) at Tucson’s Berger Center for the Performing Arts. Cohen writes: “Night Music grew out of a desire to write a piece of music that captured the moment in time when we…

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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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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