Special to The Explorer

Spring is the perfect time for romance, and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra follows the theme with "American Romance" on Thursday and Friday, April 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m. at the Tucson Music Hall.

Conducted by Music Director and Conductor George Hanson, "American Romance" opens with Aaron Copland's "Suite from Appalachian Spring," and features guest solo pianist Michael Sheppard performing George Gershwin's "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra."

Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic," concludes the program, which also features a brief, quirky piece, "Celebration," by a group of composers calling themselves Composers 11.

Sheppard, identified as "a rising star of his generation of artists," has performed at both the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.

When Gershwin wrote "Rhapsody in Blue," interest in his work intensified. Walter Damrosch, a composer and second-generation conductor, held posts at the Metropolitan Opera and The New York Symphony Orchestra. After hearing the premiere of "Rhapsody in Blue," he approached Gershwin with a commission for a piano concerto. Gershwin was the soloist when the New York Symphony Orchestra (later to become the Philharmonic) premiered the concerto at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 3, 1925. The performance was sold out and the concerto was very well received by the audience.

Howard Hanson's conducting career began with his New York Symphony Orchestra premiere and his Symphony No. 1, which brought him to the attention of industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman. His Symphony No. 2 was commissioned in celebration of the Boston Symphony's 50th anniversary by its celebrated music director, Serge Koussevitsky.

Aaron Copland composed "Appalachian Spring" for a new Martha Graham ballet in October 1944. The following year, the ballet received the Pulitzer Prize for music and the award for outstanding theatrical work of the season from the Music Critics Circle of New York, prompting the composer to create the orchestral suite.

The program also includes the world premiere of a new work, "Celebration," by Composers 11. TSO composer-in-residence Dan Coleman said the parlor game known as "Consequences," inspired the work. In the game, each player writes or draws on a piece of paper, then folds the paper to conceal the contribution before passing it along to the next player. French surrealist artists of the 1920s used this method to create whimsical, collaborative works.

Over the course of many months, via e-mail, each composer contributed about 10 bars to this score, but the previous contributions were never hidden from view. The goal was to create a piece of music that, "while amusing, didn't lurch from one unrelated idea to the next," the release said.

American Romance

Thursday and Friday,

April 8 and 9, 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 11, 2 p.m.

The Tucson Music Hall

Tickets, $20 to $72, are available online at www.tucsonsymphony.org, at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Box Office located at 2175 N. Sixth Avenue; or by phone at (520) 882-8585. TSO Box Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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