ECSO: From Plato to cannon fire

Violin soloist David Halen
Violin soloist David Halen JERRY NAUNHEIM JR./POST-DISPATCH

At first glance, it's the most conventional Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra concert of the season a couple of symphonies and a violin concerto. But is it?

Saturday's concert at the Garde Arts Center kicks off with a Beethoven symphony, pretty odd, since these usually are the headliners. But Music Director Toshi Shimada has picked Beethoven's first symphony, his energetic and good-natured response to Haydn and Mozart, not one of his epic later works. Hmmm

Then comes the woefully under-performed violin concerto that really isn't a violin concerto. It's Bernstein's Serenade for Violin, String Orchestra, Harp and Percussion after Plato's Symposium, a five-movement work from 1954 that is as charming as its name is clunky. The soloist will be David Halen, who is concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony.

And for a grand finale, there's Carl Nielsen's almost cinematic Symphony No. 4, called "The Inextinguishable." Written as World War I raged, the symphony is about the triumph of life and hope in those most hopeless of times. The final movement is pure drama, as timpani set on opposite sides of the stage exchange auditory cannonades, until optimism triumphs.

Whew!

- MILTON MOORE

The Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, 8 p.m. Saturday, Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., New London; pre-concert talk by Gary Chapman at 7 p.m.; $27-$60 with senior, student, and active military personnel discounts; $12 student rush tickets at the door; (860) 443-2876, gardearts.org.

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