SASO presents Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, Dvorak’s Eighth

Tucson music lovers are in for a rare treat on Feb. 20, 21 and 22 when the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra presents Beethoven’s seldom performed Triple Concerto, a dynamic musical conversation among cello, violin and piano soloists.

The concerto includes a particularly challenging part for cello solo, played by Zoran Stilin, SASO’s principal cellist. A native of Croatia, Stilin has performed several other concertos with the orchestra. He will be joined by Edwin E. Soo Kim, who soloed with SASO in 2013, and Kim’s pianist wife, Melanie Chae, both born in Korea and educated in Europe.

The program includes Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8.

Born in Zagreb, Croatia, Stilin was a prize-winner of the former Yugoslavia National Cello Competition. He soloed with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio-Television Orchestra, Music Academy Symphony Orchestra and Gaudemus Chamber Orchestra. He continued his musical training in Switzerland, and later the University of Arizona, where he studied with Gordon Epperson and Peter Rejto and completed a master’s degree. He is a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. He last soloed with SASO in February of 2014, performing Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo. Stilin also restores and makes fine string instruments.

Violinist Kim began studying the violin at age 7 and one year later won a music competition in his native Korea. After high school he moved to Vienna to continue his violin studies. He was the top prize winner in several international music competitions.

In Europe and Asia, Kim has soloed with numerous orchestras and performed recitals. He’s released several recordings, including one supported by the city of Verona and another celebrating the 200th year of Schumann’s birth. Currently, he is professor at Hanyang University in Seoul and lead soloist for the annual Lech Classic Music Festival in the Alps of western Austria. Kim previously performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with SASO in November of 2013.

Pianist Chae was born in Seoul, trained in London and is now based in Vienna. She studied at the Purcell School and the Royal College of Music in London. She’s won several prizes at international competitions. Chae has performed in Korea and throughout Europe as a soloist and chamber musician. She serves as musical director of studies at the Lech Classic Music Festival. She has given concerts as a soloist and with her husband, Kim, in Vienna, London, Lindau, Koblenz, Seoul, Hannover and beyond. Chae also devotes herself to chamber music.

The Beethoven concerto was published in 1804. Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 was completed later in the 19th century, in 1889. The cheery, lyrical work reflects his Slavic heritage and was inspired by Bohemian folk tunes.

SASO Music Director Linus Lerner conducts. The native of Brazil has led orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups around the world, including Brazil, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Mexico, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the United States. He also is music director of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil and founder of the Oaxaca Opera Festival, where SASO has performed the past two summers. He also led to the orchestra on two tours of China.

SASO presents this program three times, starting Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in Green Valley at the Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino del Sol; then Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at DesertView Performing Arts Center, 3990 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke; and Sunday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson.

Tickets to the Green Valley and St. Andrew’s concerts are $23 and can be ordered online, by phone at 308-6226 or purchased at the door. Complimentary tickets are available at the St. Andrew’s performance for students age 17 or younger. Tickets to the SaddleBrooke concert are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. Call 825-2818 or order online.

Longtime SASO supporter Dorothy Vanek is the season sponsor for the eighth consecutive year. The Green Valley concert is sponsored by Serene Rein and Valley Presbyterian Church, the SaddleBrooke concert by Miki Pratt and the St. Andrew’s concert by Mike and Rena Lude.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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