The Musicians of ECCO
Your correspondent has been attending People’s Symphony Concerts (PSC) on-and-off for the past 20 years. PSC seeks to serve the citizens of the New York area by presenting classical music performances of the highest caliber at affordable ticket prices. I started in college and never stopped. Some of the most moving musical experiences of my life have been at Peoples’ Symphony Concerts.
One of them was last Saturday, when I had the great pleasure of hearing ECCO: The East Coast Chamber Orchestra. This spectacular Orchestra started in 2001, when a group of young musicians – mostly colleagues and friends from leading conservatories and music festivals across the country – envisioned the creation of a democratically-run, self-conducted chamber orchestra that would thrive on the pure joy and camaraderie of classical music making. That joy is evident in each of their concerts, and abundantly clear in their first-ever commercial recording, which I picked up after the concert. The CD includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings n C Major Op. 48, Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op 110a and the exuberant and surprising La Follia Variations for String Orchestra, arranged by ECCO’s own Michi Wiancko after Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso No. 12 in D minor. Please do yourself a favor – buy this CD. You will not be disappointed. In fact, you can get a better taste of ECCO on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvUmuER6Ngc.
Saturday’s concert started with a lilting performance of the Divertimento for Strings in F Major, K. 138 (1772) by Mozart (1756-1791). This was followed by Variations on a Theme of Brank Bridge, Op. 10 (1937) by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), which contained a great many amusing passages and considerable wit, flawed, perhaps, by the absence of a unifying emotional theme. I have often found it curious that 20th Century composers are so identifiable by their sound, and how disjointed their emotional appeal can often be.
ECCO then provided an expert interpretation of Fantasias in 4 Parts (1680) by Henry Purcell (1659). Baroque music has never been my particular forte (I always thought that if it was Baroque one should fix it), but this piece had, for this listener, an unusual emotional attachment and genuine sweetness at its core.
ECCO closed the evening with another 20th Century composer, Bela Bartok (1881-1945) and his Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz. 113 (1930). As if fitting for the evening’s closer, the Bartok was the most moving and entertaining piece in the concert. At turns moody, romantic and joyful, Divertimento could only have been written at that strange moment when the world prayed that war would not come while knowing, at heart, that it was inevitable. A “Divertimento” is written to entertain both the listeners and the players, but the occasional melancholy in this piece can still be felt. It was the last work Bartok wrote before fleeing Nazi-sympathetic Hungary.
ECCO has a prominent presence on Facebook. Become a follower and learn of their concert schedule – they are not to be missed.