SASO Opening Concert Features Borodin Symphony No. 2

Opening the 2013-2014 Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra season on October 5 & 6, features two well known works by Verdi and Borodin and a new concerto for cello. Resident conductor Linus Lerner has selected guest conductor Dimitar Karaminkov from Bulgaria to be on the podium for this first program. The major selection will be Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B minor.

Alexander Borodin was a physician and chemist professionally and was a musician as an avocation or serious hobby. As a scientist he was highly acclaimed and published. He was one of the first to accept women to medical classes and eventually founded a women’s medical college. The son of a Russian nobleman and a women not his wife, he was registered as the son of a serf, Porfiry Borodin. His father Luka Gedevanishvili did see that he received high quality education including piano lessons. Following his scientific training and establishing his career at the St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy, he started advanced piano lessons at age 29 with Mily Balakirev who establishes a group of Russian composers, now known as “The Five.”

This was a time in music history when Nationalism introduces new ideas in composing. The established form of instrumental music is dominated by Beethovenism in symphonies, concertos, quartets, and other forms of chamber music. Nationalism is simply including folk songs, dances and other regional influences to compositions. In Scandinavia it would include Atterberg, Nielsen, and Sibelius but still following the Germanic forms as did the Slavic Dvorak but in the same area of Bohemia, Smetana and Bartok did not. In France there was a dramatic rejection of Beethovenism starting with Debussy. A loose group of six composers called “Les Apaches,” “hooligans,” and “Les Six” used the first theme in Borodin’s 2nd Symphony as symbolic of Nationalism. The members were Ravel, Delage, Vines, Stravinsky, de Falla, and Schmitt.

In Russian Nationalism comes a group of five composers who called themselves “Moguchaya Kuchka” the Mighty Handful. Founded by Balakirev in 1856, it includes Mussorgsky, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Borodin. Not only did they reject Beethovenism but all European influences. Their goal was to utilize folk songs, dances of Cossacks, music of lower classes, and lyrical peasant songs. The more exotic sounds are linked to the 5 tone or pentatonic scale. Another name for the group, and one that sticks to this day, is “The Five” or “Les Cinq,” a name given them by the French group “Les Six.” The Russian group however never used this label. Of the Five, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin did not always adhere to the anti-western dogma as in their symphonies they followed the Beethoven structure but otherwise used folk melodies. Due to time allocations of his medical career, Borodin did not compose a large number of selections.

After all the preceding preparation, we finally get to the Symphony No. 2 in B minor of Alexander Borodin. Yes the themes, melodies, and harmony are Russian Nationalism but the form and structures are European Germanic. The orchestra is traditional but with Oriental or Turkish percussion of triangle, tambourine, and cymbals. The traditional four movement(mvt) form is followed; Mvt.1, sonata form(introduction-exposition-recapitulation-developmentfinale). Mvt. 2 If Mvt 1 is not fast and furious, Mvt. 2 is a fast dance design.

Mvt 3, Then comes the emotional slow music. Mvt 4, Finale, usually a rondo but Borodin uses another sonata form. The 2nd. and 3rd Mvts can be reversed; slowfast or fast-slow depending on the composer.

Borodin opens Mvt. 1 with five 2 measure phrases consisting of a sustained chord not in rhythm followed by a 7 note fanfare of low brass in 4 time. These notes are engraved on Borodin’s grave stone. There are a variety of folk melodies, key and meter changes and an accelerating and dramatic ending. Mvt 2 is a very fast prestissimo in 1/1 time with a slower second theme in 2 time making the form ABA with a surprising quiet ending. The slow 3rd Mvt. opens serenely with clarinet-harp-horn followed by variations of melody and harmony creating the feel of Ancient Russia. The last, or 4th. Mvt., is sort of a combination of sonata and rondo form. The Slavic dance themes are in a mixed 3/4, 2/4, meter creating 5/4 time. The music demonstrates the Oriental gay/sad of Russian peasantry and has a very upbeat finale.

Also on the program are: Concerto for Cello by Roumi Petrova featuring soloist Kalin Ivanov and Overture to Nabucco by Verdi. On October 5 the concert will be performed at Desert View Performing Arts Auditorium in SaddleBrooke at 7:30PM and at 3:00 PM in Oro Valley at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on October 6.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.