Tonight the Peoples' Symphony Concert series presented a program by the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) at Washington Irving High School. It was a superb concert. This conductorless group of 18 young string virtuosi produces a rich, focused, well-balanced sound that proved ideal in that space, especially for the Beethoven Grosse fugue and Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings. I don't think either performance could possibly be improved upon.
They also played Arnold Schoenberg's Suite in G "In Olden Style" and Samuel Barber's Serenade for Strings, Op. 1, neither of which is a particularly wonderful piece, but the performances were so energetic, dedicated, and lovingly communicated that the performances elevated the music.
For an encore, they played a Bach chorale. It was like listening to a great actor read from the telephone book! That is, they took a very simple choral piece and played the lines with love and musical insight, and elevated it into an engrossing few minutes of music.
This is a terrific group, and they have finally (after playing together more than a decade) made their first recording, already available on iTunes and soon to be released on CD in stores. I can't wait for the CD, since it includes the Tchaikovsky Serenade and I want a permanent souvenir of such a thrilling performance.
I certainly hope they are engaged for next year's Peoples' Symphony series. They are worth going out of your way to hear.