When the finale isn’t quite final

Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra will get the rare opportunity to perform a concerto with the soloist for whom the piece was written.

In two concerts this weekend, the ensemble will perform New Jersey composer Amanda Harberg’s Viola Concerto with violist Brett Deubner, for whom Harberg wrote the piece in 2011/12. SASO Conductor Linus Lerner has worked with Deubner in the past, which led to the Tucson invitation, said SASO violist and personnel manager Tim Secomb.

Secomb said he has never heard the piece performed live — there have only been a couple performances since Deubner premiered it a few years ago — but he did watch a YouTube video of a performance. He described the concerto as “listenable,” answering the first question he said that audiences ask when SASO performs something new.

“The answer is that it is extremely listenable. It has very colorful orchestration, which is interesting because the viola sound is not very loud,” Secomb explained. “You’ve got this quite loud outburst from the orchestra and then these very quiet responses from the soloist.”

Deubner, who has soloed with orchestras around the globe, is friends with Harberg and has championed her works. He is introducing himself to SASO audiences before he joins the volunteer ensemble this season for performances in Brazil, Ecuador and Italy.

Also on the program in SaddleBrooke Saturday, Oct. 10, and at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Oct. 11, is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” This will be the first time SASO has performed the Tchaikovsky, Secomb said, calling the No. 6 the composer’s “most famous and dramatic” symphony.

It’s also a symphony that twists the model on its ear. Instead of ending with a triumphant clatter, the No. 6 closes with a sorrowful, emotionally seething whisper.

“It’s very unusual. The second to last movement is very brassy and bold and triumphant and sounds like a finale. And then the last movement is gut-wrenchingly emotional and it dies away to almost nothing at the end,” Secomb explained. “It’s almost like he switched the last two movements. Audiences are always surprised by the symphony because of that.”

Secomb said it is not unusual for audiences to applaud after that third movement, thinking that it is the finale.

This weekend’s concert kicks off SASO’s 2015-16 season, although the orchestra already has been hard at work. SASO was the orchestra in residence for Lerner’s third annual Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico.

If you go

What: Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in concert.

Featuring: Violist Brett Deubner.

When and where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at SaddleBrooke’s DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte, in Oro Valley.

Tickets: For SaddleBrooke, $24 in advance at tickets.saddlebrooketwo.com, $25 at the door. Oro Valley is $23 for adults, free for children 17 and younger at sasomusic.org or by calling 308-6226.

Program:

Moncayo’s “Huapango.”

Harberg’s Elegy for Viola and Strings; Viola Concerto with violist Brett Deubner.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique.”

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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