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 drift between waking and sleep. I have always found the discombobulated thoughts that occur in this state fascinating, and I have also been intrigued by the way I distort familiar ideas at these times. The ‘familiar ideas,’ here taken from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, occur and recur in all four movements. Although recognizable, the passages are never quoted accurately. These ideas are interspersed with and sometimes played simultaneously with my own melodic ideas, which vary from soaring melodies to phrases of infantile simplicity. These ideas, like the Beethoven, are subjected to often bizarre orchestration. The concertante group consists of three mallet percussion players, harp and celeste. The delicate sound of these tinkling instruments is a distinctive part of the night atmosphere of the work.

“The first movement begins with Beethoven, rudely interrupted by repeated-note figures, melodic fragments and passagework. Eventually a lyrical theme takes over, but the music dies away before it can develop.”

“The second movement fits the stereotype of night music, where Beethoven is combined with two contrasting themes, one highly chromatic with wide leaps and the other a childlike phrase.”

“The third movement is a minuet that is interrupted by clichés from a silent movie accompaniment. The trio is dominated by Beethoven.”

“The finale begins with many earlier themes occurring at the same time, and is interrupted by another Beethoven theme, not from the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. The  lyrical first movement idea gets to soar in a dreamy context before dying away in a series of thematic reminiscences. Finally, sleep is achieved, and the piece ends peacefully.”

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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.