SASO Plays the World’s Most Popular Guitar Concerto

By Punch Howarth

Joaquin RodrigoJoaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra will be a respite between a hectic gallop in the Shostakovich Festive Overture and the overpoweringly dramatic Symphony No.  9 of Beethoven for the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra’s season finale.

Rodrigo (1901–99) was born in Sagunto, Spain and at age 3 lost most of his vision due to diphtheria. He started piano and violin at age 8 and harmony and composition at 16. He championed the Spanish guitar as a classical instrument, although he never became proficient on it. His composing was accomplished using Braille. He studied in Spain and Paris, won Spain’s National Prize for Orchestra in 1943 for Five Children’s Pieces, and held the Manuel de Falla Chair as professor of music at Madrid University.

His compositions include 10 for orchestra, four for symphonic wind bands, and 14 concertos, including works for guitar, cello, flute, harp, and piano. His most popular work is the Concierto de Aranjuez, which was inspired by the gardens at Royal Palace of Aranjuez. The first movement, Allegro con spirito, has two themes, and is very animated with rhythmic vitality. The second movement is a slow Adagio with the solo guitar sharing passages with English horn, bassoon, oboe and horn. This music is lush with tranquility, but there are several climatic injections; it has been widely adapted by jazz artists. The third movement, Allegro gentile, has a dance feel and is in both 2/4 and 3/4 time.

The soloist will be guitarist Roberto Capocchi, a native of Brazil. He is a graduate of Lins de Vascocelios  Conservatory and Carlos Gomes College, both in Brazil, with a Master of Music in performance at University of Arizona; he is a doctoral candidate at the UA. He is on the faculty at New Mexico Highlands University, United World College, and Adams State University. He tours widely in both North and South America.

There will be three performances of this concert: Saturday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Auditorium in SaddleBrooke; Sunday, May 11 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in northwest Tucson; and Monday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pima Community College West Campus Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road.

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SASO’s Story

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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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