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Saturday, February 15, 2020 @ 7:30 pm - Sunday, February 16, 2020 @ 3:00 pm MST


TUCSON – Celebrated German conductor and pianist Matthias Manasi comes to Tucson in February for a unique multi-faceted performance this February 15th and 16th. Audience members will have the rare privilege to see Manasi combine his musical talents, conducting the orchestra from the solo piano in Richard Strauss’ orchestral suite Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Manasi will also conduct SASO in two works by Beethoven: the dynamic Seventh Symphony and the Turkish March from The Ruins of Athens. Also featured will be Graham Fawson, winner of the 2020 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition (senior division), who will perform the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the orchestra.

Mr. Manasi is one of today’s most sought-after conductors and a prominent figure of the German conducting scene. His versatility and broad repertoire have taken him to symphony and chamber orchestras, contemporary music ensembles, and opera houses around the world. Manasi has worked with such ensembles as the Munich Radio Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Staatsorchester Hannover, Hamburger Symphoniker, and many others. He is currently the Music Director of the Nickel City Opera in Buffalo, New York.

Graham Fawson, 18, is a senior at Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He studies piano performance with Dr. Baruch Meir at Arizona State University, and has played piano since the age of six. He has performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Sheremetev Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has won top prizes in the 2019 White Nights International Piano Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the 2019 Angelo and Micheline Addona Arizona Young Artist Piano and Concerto Competitions, in addition to numerous other awards. He is also an honor student, Senior Class Treasurer, an Eagle Scout, and loves spending time with his friends.

The Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition was held January 4th and 5th at the University of Arizona. Among 23 participants from ages 5 to 18 performing full concerto movements, three students each were selected as winners in the senior and junior divisions.

The winner of the junior division was violinist Joshua Thai, age 13, a student of David Rife, Assistant Concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Thai has played violin since he was seven, and has won first prize at the Rocky Ridge Music Center Concerto Competition in 2018 and 2019, and second prize in the Civic Orchestra of Tucson’s 2019 Young Artists’ Competition.

Senior division runners up were: second place: cellist Bethany Radtke, 17, a student of Mary Beth Tyndall, and third place: violinist Andrew Nix, 17, a student of Timothy Kantor. Junior division runners up were: second place: violinist Jacqueline Rodenbeck, (named a winner for the third consecutive year), age 12 and a student of Timothy Kantor, and third place: percussionist Campbell Stewart, age 13, a student of Trevor Barroero. All prize-winning students will be honored at SASO’s February 16th concert at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

This 2020, the music world celebrates a major anniversary: Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birth year. SASO commemorates the occasion on this program, in the midst of the orchestra’s own 40th anniversary season, with performances of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and the Turkish March from The Ruins of Athens. Composed in 1812, the Seventh Symphony was immediately received as both a popular success and a lasting artistic achievement, a somewhat rare combination. In particular, the unforgettable second movement was so admired that it was frequently performed separately, and may have been Beethoven’s most popular orchestral composition during his lifetime. At its premiere performance in a tribute concert for wounded soldiers from the ongoing conflicts between Napoleon’s empire and the rest of Europe, the symphony’s applause was so rapturous that the second movement was encored.

The Ruins of Athens, written by Beethoven to accompany a play of the same name in 1811, is perhaps best-known today for its festive “Turkish March” movement, which is widely recognized even by many who are not familiar with classical music.

Richard Strauss’ Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, written between 1911 and 1917, was also originally conceived as incidental music to a play. Composed to accompany the Molière play of the same name, it is far more often performed in its concert suite form. The neo-classical suite depicts the characters and situations of the drama with wit, elegance, and joie de vivre. Rich with showy solo passages for many instruments, the suite showcases not only the virtuoso piano soloist, but also the depth of SASO’s roster of talented volunteer musicians.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, completed in 1901, is memorable for its monumental sonorities and expressive melodies. The solo piano’s opening statement is unforgettable: deep, sonorous chords that break into rolling arpeggiations under the strings’ somber first theme. The work, which contains no shortage of dazzling soloist acrobatics, is also notable for the piano’s role as an ensemble member, supporting the orchestra’s thematic passages with emotive, virtuosic color. The concerto was the result of Rachmaninoff’s eventual triumph over a bout of writer’s block and self-doubt, and quickly became his most popular work. Graham Fawson will present his interpretation in his first performance with SASO.

Performances will be Saturday, February 15th at 7:30 pm at DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 Clubhouse Drive (SaddleBrooke), and Sunday, February 16th at 3:00 pm at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 7575 N Paseo del Norte. Tickets for the SaddleBrooke performance are available at, and tickets for the Tucson performance are available at or by calling 520-308-6226.

Founded in 1979, SASO has grown into a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a mutual love of music. The orchestra presents a wide range of compositions, including world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and popular classics. SASO brings together student, amateur and professional musicians with exceptional soloists, composers and conductors. Under the baton of Music Director Linus Lerner, this local community orchestra has twice traveled to China, performed three times in Oaxaca, Mexico, once in Brazil and for the past five summers at the San Luis Potosí Opera Festival in Mexico. SASO has released two commercial recordings and presents five concert programs each season in two or more locations. For more information, visit or call (520) 308-6226.


Saturday, February 15, 2020 @ 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 16, 2020 @ 3:00 pm
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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra (SASO)


DesertView Performing Arts Center
Saddlebrooke, AZ United States + Google Map

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