Music Appreciation 101, Part II

Last month’s article focused upon the woodwinds of a symphony orchestra. Brass will be the highlight of this article. The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra includes a full brass section as do all symphony orchestras, and the normal section includes H-T-T-T; 4 french Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones and 1 Tuba. Earlier compositions call for 2 horns and 2 trumpets where more modern works can call for 8-10 horns, 4-6 trumpets, 4 trombones and 2 tubas.

The prime member of an orchestral brass section is the french horn where the name differentiates it from the english horn which is an alto oboe in the woodwinds. Horns have circular conical tubing with a wide flaring bell at the end and a small funnel-looking mouthpiece. Deriving from the hunting horn, the orchestra horn has 4 rotary valves and can play the widest range of pitches of any orchestra instrument. Stopping is a technique where the player can insert the hand in the bell to create a special sound and mutes may also be used. Horn sounds can be brilliant and powerful but also quite mellow and delicate which allows it to be included in woodwind scoring. Concertos for the natural horn by Haydn and Mozart and the modern(1835) valved horn by R. Strauss and Hindemith are occasionally performed.

Next are trumpets which are cylindrical most of the tubing length flaring into a bell at the end with a cup shaped mouthpiece as are trombones and tuba. The cornet is the same length but has conical tubing giving a mellow sound and used in bands not orchestras. The trumpet of today produces a brilliant tone and has 3 piston valves although German trumpets have rotary valves. Some examples of great trumpet music can be heard in the music of Mahler, Wagner, R. Strauss, Shostakovich, and Respighi.

Lower pitched are the trombones of which there are 3 types: tenor, bass, and valve trombones. The tubing is a cylinder, giving it a dramatic effect, flaring into a bell. They have a slide that changes the length of the tubing allowing pitch changes. Valve trombones are rarely used as they have poor tone quality. The sacbut was the medieval ancestor of the trombone. The instrument is used to great effect in the music of Wagner, Berlioz, Hindemith, and Rossini.

Lastly are the bass tubas which have conical tubing flaring into a bell with a cupped mouthpiece. This is played in an upright position in the lap of the performer and has 4 or 5 valves. Tubas became much used in 19th and 20th centuries with Prokofiev treating it as a melody instrument.

For the opening SaddleBrooke concert on Saturday October 8, SASO will perform Sones de Mariachi of Galindo, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in Em, March of the Kitchen Utensils by Vaughn-Williams, The Moldau of Smatana, and Liszt’s Les Preludes. For more information about concerts, tickets and SASO go to

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SASO’s Story

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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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."