SCO – Something for Everyone


The Santa Cecilia Orchestra is one of those ensembles that have simply got the knack for appealing to all kinds of listeners, delighting both classical neophyte and cognoscenti alike. Its program on Saturday night, held at the Shay Hall located in their Eagle Rock complex, was a fine case in point.

Members of the orchestra performed a program consisting of Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony” and Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” with a charming miniature by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla sandwiched in between.

The range of the program spoke volumes about Santa Cecilia’s reach, both with respect to the wide net it casts for its audience, as well as the musical prowess of its musicians.

Britten’s “Simple Symphony,” which many contemporary listeners may recognize from its use in Wes Anderson’s film “Moonrise Kingdom,” beguiles the listener with its easy-going amiability, though its placid surface masks the number of thorny challenges it presents for performers. Yet it is a testament to the superlative level of playing of the Santa Cecilia’s musicians that theirs was a performance that sounded as natural and effortless as though the score were playing itself.

Their performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” on the other hand, was all brawn and passion. Despite the work’s title, the composer betrays little influence of Italian music: It is a work of decidedly Slavic flavor. Its proportions are such that Tchaikovsky could very well have called the work a chamber symphony. The Santa Cecilia musicians played up the equal parts melancholy and ebullience at the heart of this score with sweetly inflected warmth.

Piazzolla’s “Rio Sena” – a tribute to Paris’ Seine River – was wedged in the middle of the program. This playful miniature, redolent of the tango music that was central to this composer’s work, was played in an arrangement for string trio by Leonid Desyatnikov. His arrangement was a thank you to the Santa Cecilia for playing his arrangement of the same composer’s “Las cuatro estaciones.” Last Saturday’s performance was this arrangement’s world premiere.

The Santa Cecilia Orchestra is without a doubt one of the cultural gems of Northeast Los Angeles. Last Sarurday’s concert eloquently expressed why.