The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is in a holiday recess mode.

To reprise the first two performances of the season, young George Li gave an astounding and enraptured performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, followed by encores by Chopin and Liszt. The near sell-out audience rewarded his performance by calling him back eight times with their applause.

Following intermission, the orchestra played the Mussorgsky-Ravel “Pictures at an Exhibition,” conducted by Linus Lerner with great audience appreciation.

At the second concert in November, the “jewel in the crown” was the Schumann “Spring Symphony.” An unusual work, Ao Chang-Qun’s “Tibetan Tita Dance,” opened the concert conducted by Tao Fan from China.

Lerner is conducting SASO on Feb. 12, presenting two works by Ravel — “Bolero,” for large orchestra, followed by his “Piano Concerto in G Major,” and Percy Granger’s Colonial Song. Concluding the program is the four-movement Paul Hindemith masterpiece, “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber” that emulates a concerto for large orchestra featuring every section.

At the Feb. 12 concert, SASO commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of Percy Granger. He was called the “jogging pianist,” as he would jog prior to a concert ending by running on stage at the last moment. He felt he needed to be excited. When he traveled by steamship, he would shovel coal in the boiler area in all his free time. He designed and made clothes of all types, and made probably the first sports bra for his Danish girl friend.

Moving to the United States in 1914, he developed the “string piano” technique, played oboe in a U.S. Army band, and became a U.S. citizen in 1918.

Granger married Ella Strom in 1928 on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl after conducting a concert with about 20,000 in the audience. At this time he developed “elastic music” scoring, became dean of music at New York University, guest conducted the Goldman Band in Central Park and experimented with “music machines.” The three best known are the “Hills and Dales” machine — he called it the “kangaroo pouch” — the “theremin” and the “synthesizer” invented by Robert Moog.

On April 2, the Southern Arizona Opera Company joins SASO in a performance of Puccini’s opera “Suor Angelica.” This concert includes the “Overture La Forza del Destino” by Verdi, and the youth competition winner as a soloist.

The final concert May 21 features the magnificent “Symphony No. 7” of Beethoven. Another highlight will be the “Concerto for Two Guitars” of Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

SASO appreciates all the support received from many sources. We look forward to presenting outstanding music in 2011. Go to for more information.

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