SASO presents Mahler, viola concerto, aria by Tucson Artists in SaddleBrooke

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Hong-Mei Xiao

TUCSON, AZ – Mahler’s romantic fourth symphony, a viola concerto by Hindemith and an aria from the new opera Rappaccini’s Daughter by a Tucson composer are highlights of the next Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra concerts on Feb. 23 and 24.

  Award-winning virtuoso Hong-Mei Xiao is the soloist for Paul Hindemith’s Viola Concerto Der Schwanendreher. This unique chamber work is scored for a sizable ensemble of wind instruments plus cellos and basses – but no violins or violas.

  Hindemith, himself a violist as well as composer and conductor, performed the world premiere of this concerto in Berlin in 1927 and introduced it to American audiences in Boston in 1935. Soloist Xiao performs throughout the world and has released critically acclaimed recordings. A native of China and graduate of Shanghai Conservatory, she is associate professor of music at the University of Arizona. She’s collaborated with renowned artists, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinists Joseph Silverstein and Cho-Liang Lin.

  Soprano Christi Amonson is featured in the first performance of the aria “If Life Were As It Seems” from the opera Rappaccini’s Daughter by Tucson composer Richard White and librettist Terry Quinn. She’s joined by a female quartet. Amonson also is the soloist for the final movement of the Mahler. She’s performed with SASO on numerous occasions, including its first tour of China.

  White is a violist with SASO as well as a violinist, guitarist and pianist. He’s published symphonies concertos, sonatas, quintets and solo works, plus numerous songs and choral compositions. Rappaccini’s Daughter is his third of seven operas. It’s a re-telling of a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne about a medical researcher in 18th century Padua who grows a garden of poisonous plants and brings up his daughter to tend the plants. Eventually she becomes resistant to the poisons, and, as a result, becomes poisonous to others.

  Gustav Mahler was born in Bohemia when it was still part of the Austrian Empire and attended the Vienna Conservatory and Vienna University. Mahler was primarily a conductor much of his career. His music is more appreciated today than in his own time. The Symphony No. 4 in G major is perhaps his most popular. Lightly scored and playful, it opens with sleigh bells, includes a devilish violin solo and ends with a child’s song about heaven, sung by Amonson.

This program will be performed twice – Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke – and Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte. At the St. Andrews concert, tickets are complimentary students age 17 or younger.

Tickets to the SaddleBrooke concert are $21 in advance or $23 at the door. Order them online at http://tickets/saddlebrooketwo.com or call 825-2818.

Tickets to the St. Andrews concert are $20 in advance or at the door. Order online at www.sasomusic.org or call 308-6226.

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