Renowned Conductor and Two Award-Winning Soloists to Join SASO in Concert of Classics

Tucson – In February, the sweeping, evocative music of Mendelssohn and Brahms will fill the music halls at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and SaddleBrooke. SASO is privileged to welcome three notable guest artists to the stage for this program: celebrated conductor Peter Leonard will take the podium to conduct the orchestra, joined by solo violinist Madeleine Mitchell and solo cellist Theodore Buchholz. The performances will take place Saturday, February 2nd, at DesertView Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke, and Sunday, February 3rd, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in northwest Tucson.

American conductor Peter Leonard holds positions as General Music Director and Chief Conductor of the North German Philharmonic and the Volkstheater Rostock, as well as Principal Conductor of Opera on the James in Virginia. He has also made guest conducting appearances with orchestras and operas around the world, masterfully performing repertoire from Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi to Copland, Crumb, and Zwilich. His expertise at core German repertoire will prove to be especially valuable to his interpretation of Mendelssohn and Brahms with SASO.

On the bill for the performances are Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Symphony No. 5, and Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, performed by guest soloists Madeleine Mitchell and Theodore Buchholz.

Madeleine Mitchell

Praised for both her vibrant lyrical intensity and her pioneering creativity, violinist Madeleine Mitchell has performed in some 50 countries as soloist and chamber musician, with a wide repertoire frequently broadcast on television and radio programs including BBC Proms, ABC (Australia), Bayerischer Rundfunk, S4C and Italian TV where she won the Palma d’Oro. Madeleine plays on an 1839 Rocca violin made in Turin.

Theodore Buchholz

Theodore Buchholz is the professor of cello at the University of Arizona, where he also serves as String Area Coordinator, String Chamber Music Coordinator, and the Director of the UA String Project. Buchholz has lauded by newspaper critics as a “Virtuosic cellist,” an “Outstanding performer,” and a “Wonderful musician.” He performs on an outstanding cello made in 1877 by French luthier Charles Mennégand.

The Double Concerto for Violin and Cello was Brahms’ last composition for orchestra, and was somewhat of an “olive branch” between estranged friends. In 1887, Brahms broke a seven-year silence between himself and renowned violinist Joseph Joachim to inform him of his plans for a new concerto for violin and cello. The double concerto brought them together again in musical partnership as they collaborated in its composition and performances, and it stands as a historic result of that reconciliation. The concerto is a grand integration of the orchestra and soloists, displays Brahms’ mature compositional style, rich in harmony, lyrical in melody, and full of Romantic-era thematic balance that showcases the talent of the soloists and the color of the orchestra.

Mendelssohn wrote the Hebrides Overture following a journey along the coast of the Scottish Highlands, in which the beautiful landscapes summoned music in the composer’s mind. While traveling, Mendelssohn wrote, “In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, the following came into my mind there,” followed by a sketch of the opening measures of the piece. The Hebrides Overture is a standalone concert overture rather than an opening movement to an introduction to an opera or ballet. The stately subjects, lyrical melodies, and dramatic swells easily call to mind a nautical journey filled with vast landscapes, lonely islands, unpredictable weather, and even “oil and seagulls and dead fish” of which Mendelssohn wrote during his travels.

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 (Reformation) was written almost concurrently with the Hebrides Overture, and was intended to commemorate the establishment of the Lutheran faith. Listeners may recognize hymns and familiar themes throughout the symphony. The symphony opens with a transposition of the well-known theme from Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, and the melody of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” permeates the finale movement.

Performances will be Saturday, February 2nd at 7:30 pm at DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 Clubhouse Drive (SaddleBrooke), and Sunday, February 3rd at 3:00 pm at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 7575 N Paseo del Norte. Tickets for the SaddleBrooke performance are available at, and tickets for the Tucson performance are available at or by calling 520-308-6226.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 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.