SASO opening concert to spotlight Liszt, Smetana - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

SASO opening concert to spotlight Liszt, Smetana

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Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 3:00 am

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra will perform the opening concert of its 2011-2012 season. Galindo’s Sones de Mariachi (Mariachi Songs) opens the program.

Gareth Johnson will be the next soloist in the popular Violin Concerto in E minor by Mendelssohn. The second half of the program includes March Past of the Kitchen Utensils by Vaughn-Williams, Smetana’s The Moldau and Les Preludes of Liszt.

The last two selections are by well-known Eastern European composers Bedrich Smetana and Franz Liszt.

Smetana, along with Dvorak, were Bohemian Nationalist composers of what was to become the Czech Republic. Smetana lived in an Austrian-controlled Bohemia at a time when feelings of independence were growing.

A work of intense pride about Bohemian nationalism is Smetana’s Ma Vlast (My Country). The work is a series of six tone poems relating to visions of Bohemia. The second, Viltava (River Moldau) that flows past Prague, is the work being performed.

It opens with ripplings of the river’s birth, followed by a hunt, nymphs swimming in lunar illumination, a village wedding, shimmering reflections of ruined castles, rapids and final rush to the sea.

Smetana’s music is basically Germanic due to his training. He was a disciple and friend of Liszt. He developed a Czech musical tradition in mid-life that included folk music and dances, operas based upon Czech life, such as The Bartered Bride, and became the Slavic focal point for those who followed.

Hungarian Franz Liszt, also a product of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, experienced three periods of his musical life. Early on he was a profound piano virtuoso with very large hands.

Secondly, he became a conductor of orchestra and opera; following this he became a composer. His compositions reflected a change away from traditional symphonic works to a new tone poem form that led to Wagner and Richard Strauss. A major influence on his composing were the descriptive works of Berlioz.

Les Preludes is the second of 12 symphonic tone poems by Liszt. It is the best known and most popular. The Lone Ranger and Tonto loved it as it was used as theme music for the long running radio and TV show along with “The William Tell Overture.”

The work was inspired by poems of Joseph Autran, Les Quatre Elements and Nouvelles meditations poetiques by Lamartine. The work opens with a long, developing and quiet introduction followed by a military fanfare.

In areas to follow are pastoral, warlike, dreamy and indecisive sections. The fanfare returns much enlarged for an expected big ending.


This concert will be presented twice. Once in SaddleBrooke at the Desert View Performing Arts Auditorium on Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m., and again on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Oro Valley.

For tickets and other information, visit

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