Best Classical Music Performance By A Local Group

George Hanson, Tucson Symphony Orchestra

STAFF PICK: Most of us classical music fans are married to Beethoven -- he's familiar, dependable, a little outrageous, and sometimes scary to wake up to in the morning. But monogamy is stultifying in music, so every once in a while we need a little fling with composers and compositions that don't natter at us day in and day out. Back in February, George Hanson and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra took us for a night on the town with two composers we see all the time but rarely do the nasty with: George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. It wasn't yet another program of Rhapsody in Blue and Rodeo, though; instead, the TSO turned in tight, bold, vibrant, expressive performances of two big scores we ought to know better -- Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (with spotless soloist James Tocco) and Copland's Symphony No. 3. True, this wasn't an especially daring outing; the music dates from the 1930s and '40s, and if Hanson really wanted to walk on the wild side he would have hooked us up with younger, unsafe beauties, like maybe Christopher Rouse's Cello Concerto and John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1. Even so, the experience was exhilarating, and Hanson is planning something similar for this October 28 and 29: Samuel Barber's Piano Concerto, Copland's Dance Symphony and Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Put Ludwig to bed early, and come on out.

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