2015-16 Cycle 2 Program Notes

Karelia is a region of northern Europe, on the border between Russia and Finland. Tensions over the ownership of Karelia were an important aspect of Finland’s struggle for independence. In 1893, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was commissioned to write music to accompany a series of historic tableaux representing scenes from the history of this region. From the resulting set of eleven pieces, three were later published as the popular Karelia Suite, while the Karelia Overture was published separately. Like much of his music, the overture shows how much the composer was influenced by the landscapes of his country. The music has a rustic, even simplistic, feel to it, while also reflecting the deep patriotism of the composer.

Felix Mendelssohn was born into a wealthy and highly cultured family in Germany, and, as a pianist and composer, quickly developed into one of the greatest child prodigies, comparable to the young Mozart. By the time he wrote the Concerto in D minor for Violin and String Orchestra at the age of thirteen, he was already an accomplished composer. The concerto is free in structure, not strongly confined by traditional concepts. After being neglected for many years, the work was rediscovered in 1951 and championed by the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The deft manner in which the composer managed the problem of balancing the violin with the much stronger sound of the piano, as well as the spontaneous flow of delightful melody, show the genius of the precocious young Mendelssohn.

The long career of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams spanned romantic and modern musical eras. His highly personal style was strongly influenced by English folk music. Although his Symphony No. 5 was written during the depths of the Second World War, it conveys feelings of serenity and exultation that came as a surprise and as a source of comfort and hope to its wartime listeners. Some of the themes of the third movement were drawn from an opera that the composer was working on, based on The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This link to a story about reaching eventual peace, after passing through times of conflict and difficulty, gives a clue to the overall message of the symphony. Another influence was the music of Jean Sibelius, to whom the symphony was dedicated. The first movement begins with a mood of uncertainty, created by use of conflicting keys (horns in D, low strings in C). Gradually, this gives way to assurance and the music soars to exultant climaxes. In the second movement, which is mainly very soft, many themes go racing by like fleeting fragments of thought. The third movement, Romanza, is at the heart to the symphony, with its contemplative and serene atmosphere and its reference to The Pilgrim’s Progress. Although vast in scale, the final Passacaglia is based on a short seven-bar theme, which is repeated numerous times and subject to many transformations. Near the end, there is a reference to the opening of the first movement, and then the passacaglia theme moves higher and higher as if into another world.

– Tim Secomb

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SASO’s Story

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."
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.