SASO performs Glazunov concerto March 17-19

The single-named Ashu is the first and only full-time concert saxophone soloist in the world and he’s coming to Tucson. This young virtuoso will perform Alexander Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto. He’ll join the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra for three performances—March 17, 18 and 19.

Ashu has said, “The saxophone is really an incredible instrument. It can be played with such emotional intensity and sing like a voice. It’s capable of tremendous beauty.” He’s traveled the world with his sax and won numerous international competitions. The Glazunov is the first concerto ever written for solo saxophone.

The eclectic SASO program also features:

  • Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, described as “a gentle welcome to the afterlife and a comfort to those who remain behind.” Soloists are soprano Kristen Lucas and baritone Jonathan Kim, joined by the 45-voice Southern Arizona Symphony Chorus prepared by Kim.
  • The premiere of Richard White’s Fantasy on the Radetzky March, written in memory of longtime SASO benefactor Irving J. Olson, who once led SASO in a performance of the original Radetzky March.
  • Walton’s stately yet extroverted Crown Imperial March
  • The first movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major performed by Nicholas Turner, winner of the Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition
  • Two tangos by Astor Piazzola, arranged for saxophone by Ashu

Glazunov was born in St. Petersburg to musician parents and studied composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He composed the first of his nine symphonies at age 16. He became professor, then director of the St. Petersburg School of Music before leaving Russia in 1905 to tour Europe and the United States, before settling in Paris. There he was inspired by the saxophone-rich band of Garde Républicaine.

Composed in Paris in the mid-1930s, his saxophone concerto is a single movement work, a lyrical rhapsody in the Romantic style with elements of folk music. The seldom-performed piece with rapid-fire tempo changes is supremely challenging—well suited to the virtuoso Ashu. Critics have described him as charismatic, emotive and “just as much fun to watch as to listen to.” In addition to the concerto, he will play Piazzolla’s Tanti Anni Prima and Libertango.

This varied SASO concert is certain to be a crowd pleaser with music by Russian, French, English, American and Argentinian composers. The three performances are:

  • March 17 at 7 p.m. in Green Valley at the Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino del Sol on Friday. Tickets are $23 in advance or at the door. Order online at or call SASO at (520) 308-6226.
  • March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in SaddleBrooke at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. Individual tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door and can be purchased by calling (520) 825-2818 or This concert is sponsored by Corbett and Pat Alley.
  • March 19 at 3 p.m. in northwest Tucson at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte. Individual tickets are $23 in advance or at the door. Tickets are complimentary for ages 17 and younger. Order online at or call (520) 308-6226. This program is sponsored by Patricia Linder.

SASO Music Director Linus Lerner conducts all three performances. Since 2008 he has led the orchestra in Tucson and abroad, including two tours of China, three trips to Oaxaca, Mexico and one to Brazil. Most recently SASO musicians traveled with him to the inaugural San Luis Potosí Opera Festival in Mexico. Lerner conducts chamber groups, orchestras, operas and choirs around the globe, from North, Central and South America to Europe, Eastern Europe, Israel, South Korea, China and Australia. Through these travels he meets exceptional artists from many cultures and introduces them to SASO audiences.

The final concert of the SASO season will be April 22 and 23, featuring young Russian conductor Anton Shaburov. That program includes Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, performed by Melanie Chae, who previously soloed with SASO in 2015.

Philanthropist and musician Dorothy Vanek is SASO’s season sponsor for the 10th consecutive year. She also underwrote SASO’s first professional CD – Celebration! – featuring the compositions of six Tucson composers. She later sponsored SASO’s pending CD of contemporary music featuring viola concertos by Amanda Harberg and Max Wolpert, both performed by internationally acclaimed soloist Brett Deubner.

SASO’s music acquisition this season is sponsored by the Arizona Lottery.

SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. Founded in 1979, this orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites.

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SASO’s Story

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