The Tucson Symphony Orchestra will open its 2016-17 season this weekend with “Classic Gershwin,” a performance featuring works created and influenced by American composer George Gershwin and his travels around the world.
The season opening will be the first to be conducted by new TSO music director José Luis Gomez and will feature guest soloist Joyce Yang on piano.
Yang is a highly praised and immensely successful pianist who has played with some of the most prestigious symphonies around the world. This weekend, she will share her talents with TSO.
The music of “Classic Gershwin” is culturally diverse and technically intense. With very little time for the orchestra to practice as a group, each musician in the TSO has spent countless hours preparing for each performance on his or her own.
“We’ve refined the art of learning music quickly and performing music quickly,” said Lauren Roth, TSO’s concertmaster for the season and an assistant professor of violin at the UA. “Any given program we will begin rehearsing towards the beginning of that week.”
As TSO concertmaster, Roth functions as the leader of the instrumentalists in the orchestra and as a liaison between Gomez and the orchestra. Roth is looking forward to “Classic Gershwin” and presenting the audience with a mix of well-known pieces and more obscure works.
“It’s a nice program in that I think there’s something for everyone,” Roth said. “Anyone who is even well-versed in orchestral repertoire will be able to learn something.”
The program is a celebration of music through the lens of one composer’s travels around the world and aims to kick off the TSO season with energy and excitement.
“It’s kind of a big traveling journey in between all the programs,” Gomez said. “It’s just about how wonderful the music is internationally as a universal language.”
The program begins with a lesser-known composition from Gershwin titled “Cuban Overture.” Influenced by the rich culture the composer was exposed to during a trip to Havana, Cuba, this piece features many Latin American elements.
“It’s his vision of all the rhythms of Latin America,” Gomez said. “It embarks in the classic Gershwin composer style [and shows] how well he was influenced by the music of other places.”
Following Gershwin’s take on Latin-American music, TSO will perform “Chôros No. 6,” a piece by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Villa-Lobos was an immensely popular composer in the early 1900s in Brazil and found inspiration in the traditional folk music he heard there. He remains extremely well-known, even today, and has created over 2,000 works of music throughout his lifetime.
Gomez wanted to include Villa-Lobos’ “Chôros No. 6” in the concert not only because it paired well with “Cuban Overture,” but also to begin his effort to bring more Latin American music to the TSO and the concert-going community of Tucson.
“I’m very keen for [the audience] to enjoy the new piece that I’m including because that’s part of my vision with the orchestra,” Gomez said.
Gomez said he hopes these new different musical styles will provide routine concert attendees with a fresh perspective, as well as entice other parts of the community to come experience what TSO has to offer.
After intermission, Yang will perform “Concerto in G major for Piano and Orchestra” by Maurice Ravel. The French composer was inspired by Gershwin’s style — after the two met in France, he incorporated elements of the popular American jazz movement into his music.
Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” will conclude the night and bring the audience on a journey to 1920’s France. Gershwin met Raval in the romantic city and Raval introduced him to French music and culture, inspiring the piece that was ultimately adapted into a film and musical.
Tickets for “Classic Gershwin” can be purchased online at the TSO website and are between $30 and $86, or students with a valid ID can purchase rush tickets for $10 during the hour before the concert begins.
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