Tucson Symphony Orchestra Conductor José Luis Gomez likes to think of the orchestra’s Masterworks chamber series as “a laboratory for music,” where the conductor and orchestra showcase their shared musical development.
It also could easily be called a window to his past as Gomez, in his inaugural TSO season, programs works for that series that sort of tell his biography.
With Mozart’s Symphony No. 4, a cornerstone of this weekend’s concert, we glimpse at Gomez the young musician. Gomez first played Mozart when he was concertmaster of the Youth Orchestra of Zulia State in his native Venezuela — part of El Sistema de Orquestas Juveniles de Venezuela — at the age of 11 or 12.
“I was performing as a soloist with the Youth Orchestra and with the professional orchestra, the Maracaibo Symphony,” he said in a written statement. “Now I am looking forward to having our concertmaster perform it with me.”
Mozart penned the virtuosic piece for himself when he was still a teen, imparting in it challenges that thrill violinists to this day.
Gomez paired it with early 19th century Spanish composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga’s Overture “Pastourelle,” written just two years before Arriagas died at the age of 19. Arriaga was called the Spanish Mozart and not just because he was a child prodigy like Mozart. The two shared a birthdate — 50 years apart — were accomplished composers and both died tragically young.
The program concludes with Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony “Scottish,” also written when the 19th century composer was young. And like Mozart and Arriaga, Mendelssohn died young; he was 38 and had been in poor health his last years, likely due to overwork and exhaustion — which also played into the deaths of Mozart and Arriaga.