The Candlelight Concert Society changes venues for the day and presented “ECCO – East Coast Chamber Orchestra Program-An Ancient Walkabout” at the Linehan Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. “An Ancient Walkabout takes the listener on an exploration of the depth and virtuosity of early music, while simultaneously drawing harmonious connections between the western classical music tradition and music inspired by Peru.”
ECCO is a group of musicians that joined together from several conservatories and music festivals to create a democratically run, self-conducted chamber orchestra. This music collective “combines the strength and Power of great orchestral ensemble with the personal involvement and sensitivity of superb chamber music.” The orchestra appears to rotate musicians from performance to performance. Tonight, there were eight violinists, four violists, four cellists and a bassist.
It was a fine night of contrasting chamber music. The young orchestra was very talented and had great enthusiasm for their instruments and music…
The program opened with traditional Chamber Music, “Chacony for Strings in G Minor” by Henry Purcell and arranged by Benjamin Britten. Throughout the piece is the reoccurrence of the dance form known as the Chaconne. Purcell’s chacony dates from 1680.
Taking us to the Western Hemisphere the next piece was by Gabriela Lena Frank “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout. (Leyendas means legends.) Frank, born in California has studied her South American heritage, and her music reflects her studies of Latin-American culture and arts. This piece has six movements. “Toyos” depicts the South American instrument, the panpipe. “Tarqueada” is based on the Tarka a heavy wooden duct flute. “Himno do Zampoñas” features another type of panpipe.
“Chasqui” portrays a legendary figure from the Incas, the chasqui runner. The runner played a higher pitched cousin to the guitar and a lightweight flute both depicted by strummed pizzicato chords. “Canto de Veloria” depicts another well-known legendary figure of the Quechua Indians, the professional crying woman hired at funerals. The instruments imitate those mournful cries during the movement. It ends with “Coqueteos” a flirtatious love sung which was sung by gallant men and is bold and festive. The most notable aspect of this rendition was that all the instruments of Frank’s walkabout are recreated by the four stringed instruments of the orchestra. The musicians did this by using variations of pizzicato and some unique tapping on the strings with their bows.
In contrast, the next selection was “Chaconne from Partita no. 2” by Johann Sebastian Bach and arranged by Michi Wiancko. Bach’s piece was my favorite of the night. It had a deep resonance and filled the room with rich harmonies. Bach’s wife had died right before he wrote this, and the chaconne was a slow dance used in those times during periods of mourning.
After Intermission ECCO played a set “From Spain and France to Peru: A Renaissance Suite” and included “Di, Perra Mora” by Pedro Guerrero from 16th century Spain, “Mille Regretz” by Josquin des Prez from 15th century France and an anonymous piece from Peru “Follia: A Chacua.” The first captured the Spanish influence by using ankle bells on one of the cellists. The French piece was a bit livelier as was the Peruvian piece.
The finale by Britten was “Chacony from String Quartet no. 2” which was truly a good representation of Britten’s work. It showcased all four instruments. It was actually written on the 250th anniversary of Purcell’s death. For the third and final movement, Britten honored his predecessor by using the Chacony. The work is more somber than the others but showed the excellent caliber and virtuosity of ECCO.
It was a fine night of contrasting chamber music. The young orchestra was very talented and had great enthusiasm for their instruments and music which was quite contagious to the listener. This was another feather in the Candlelight Concert Society’s cap.
Candlelight Concert Society will be presenting the “Escher String Quartet with Christopher Shih, Piano,” Saturday, May 11 at 7 PM at HCC, at the Smith Theatre at Howard Community College. It is the last show of the Season. Don’t miss it.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours.
For more information on that concert and next season contact Candlelight Concert Society.
Note: Tina Sinclair Smith accompanied this reviewer and was able to communicate professional insights to the performance.