SASO concert

Punch Howarth

Linus Lerner will conduct the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in three differing and interesting compositions in the April concert, plus a bonus. In addition to Psalm 22 by Michael Kiefer, Martinu’s Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, featuring soloist Hong-Mai Xiao, and Masquerade Suite by Khachaturian, will be the winner of the annual Student Concerto Competition performing a work of his or her choosing.

Bohuslav Martinu, 1890-1959, a Czech composer, was born in Policka, Bohemia, to a family that resided in a church tower, after which Martinu never forgot the power of the bells and even alludes to it in many of his compositions. He was a student of Czech composer Josef Suk and later in France with Albert Roussel. As a performer he was a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic and Czech Theater Orchestra. He moved in 1923 to France where he composed and left in 1941 to the United States fleeing the Nazi takeover. In addition to composing he taught at Mannes School of Music, Yale, and the Berkshire Music Center. Notable students here were Alan Hovhaness, Jan Novak and Bert Bacharach. He returned to France in 1953 and taught at the American Academy at Rome. His music is performed frequently and includes 15 operas, six symphonies, nine concertos and 14 ballets.

His Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola is in two movements marked Moderato and Molto Adagio (very slow). Movement One opens with an introduction of orchestra alone (ritornello) of mostly strings. There are two main themes for the soloist with the first being a very rhapsodic-lush melody in four-time and the contrasting second theme is in three-time. Movement Two has a very slow and mysterious first theme by the soloist after the opening ritornello and the second theme is a bit quicker. The form is ABA, with several orchestra interludes, a short cadenza and ends with two soft chords. The work is very harmonic and melodic with little dissonance.

Also on the program will be the premier of Psalm 22 by Michael Kiefer, Aram Khachaturian’s five part Masquerade Suite, and the Concerto Competition winner’s selection. The concert will be performed on April 11 at 7:30 p.m. at DesertView Performing Arts Auditorium in SaddleBrooke.

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