Program notes for concerts Feb. 15-16, 2014

Arturo MarquezProminent Mexican composer Arturo Márquez was born in Álamos, Sonora. Marquez’s father was a mariachi musician in Mexico and later in Los Angeles and his paternal grandfather was a Mexican folk musician in the northern states of Sonora and Chihuahua. As a result, Márquez was exposed to several musical styles in his childhood, particularly Mexican “salon music” which would influence his later compositional style. His Danzón No. 2 is one of the most significant and frequently performed Mexican contemporary classical compositions for orchestra. It was inspired by a dance style called danzón, which has its origins in Cuba but which Márquez heard while visiting a ballroom in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The music is notable for its rhythmic drive, enlivened by frequent syncopations and continually shifting orchestral colors.

Ernest BlochBorn in Switzerland, composer Ernest Bloch began playing the violin at age 9 and started composing soon after. In 1924 he settled in the United States, where he held several teaching appointments, including Mannes College in New York, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and taught several noted American composers. Completed by Bloch before he came to America, Schelomo was the final work of his “Jewish Cycle,” a series of five compositions in which he expressed his personal conception of what Jewish music should be. The word Schelomo is the Hebrew form of Solomon, and the violoncello represents the voice of King Solomon. Initially, it was conceived as a vocal work, but by chance Bloch met cellist Alexandre Barjansky, whose playing had the brooding vocal quality that he envisioned for Schelomo. Performed as a single continuous piece, Schelomo falls into three main sections. The first section begins with the cello lamenting in the voice of King Solomon, inspired by the text, “Nothing is worth the pain it causes … All this is vanity.” In the second section, the orchestra builds to an enormous climax, at which point the voice of Solomon declares, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! Nothing!” In the third section, the solo part remains aloof from the orchestra’s themes and eventually collapses into silence.

Johannes BrahmsBorn in Hamburg, Germany, Johannes Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria. During his lifetime, he was recognized as a major figure in music, and he greatly influenced later composers. He combined the highly structured compositional styles of the baroque and classical periods with the freedom and expressiveness of the romantic era in music. Brahms began composing his Symphony No. 1 in 1854, but it was not completed until 1876. Two factors probably contributed to this long gestation. Firstly, Brahms was famously self-critical and destroyed many of his early works. Secondly, he was acutely aware of the expectation that he was in some sense Beethoven’s successor, and should produce a symphony that would measure up to those of Beethoven. Indeed, the symphony does contain some echoes of Beethoven. For example, the key of C minor is that of Beethoven’s fifth, while the broad theme of the last movement is reminiscent of the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth. Both the first and last movements of Brahms’ symphony open with a slow introduction, creating an atmosphere of tension and seriousness. This is heightened in the first movement by the persistent drumbeat from the timpani. After all this seriousness, the shift to the brilliant key of C major in the last movement creates a jubilant ending to the symphony.

—Tim Secomb

Comments are closed.

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.
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 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.