Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra will get the rare opportunity to perform a concerto with the soloist for whom the piece was written.
In two concerts this weekend, the ensemble will perform New Jersey composer Amanda Harberg’s Viola Concerto with violist Brett Deubner, for whom Harberg wrote the piece in 2011/12. SASO Conductor Linus Lerner has worked with Deubner in the past, which led to the Tucson invitation, said SASO violist and personnel manager Tim Secomb.
Secomb said he has never heard the piece performed live — there have only been a couple performances since Deubner premiered it a few years ago — but he did watch a YouTube video of a performance. He described the concerto as “listenable,” answering the first question he said that audiences ask when SASO performs something new.
“The answer is that it is extremely listenable. It has very colorful orchestration, which is interesting because the viola sound is not very loud,” Secomb explained. “You’ve got this quite loud outburst from the orchestra and then these very quiet responses from the soloist.”
Deubner, who has soloed with orchestras around the globe, is friends with Harberg and has championed her works. He is introducing himself to SASO audiences before he joins the volunteer ensemble this season for performances in Brazil, Ecuador and Italy.
Also on the program in SaddleBrooke Saturday, Oct. 10, and at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Oct. 11, is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” This will be the first time SASO has performed the Tchaikovsky, Secomb said, calling the No. 6 the composer’s “most famous and dramatic” symphony.
It’s also a symphony that twists the model on its ear. Instead of ending with a triumphant clatter, the No. 6 closes with a sorrowful, emotionally seething whisper.
“It’s very unusual. The second to last movement is very brassy and bold and triumphant and sounds like a finale. And then the last movement is gut-wrenchingly emotional and it dies away to almost nothing at the end,” Secomb explained. “It’s almost like he switched the last two movements. Audiences are always surprised by the symphony because of that.”
Secomb said it is not unusual for audiences to applaud after that third movement, thinking that it is the finale.
This weekend’s concert kicks off SASO’s 2015-16 season, although the orchestra already has been hard at work. SASO was the orchestra in residence for Lerner’s third annual Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico.