Hastings Philharmonic

Peasmarsh Festival fans should hotfoot it to St Mary in the Castle in Hastings on 14 April to see Richard Lester as soloist for the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra. Professor Lester is well known and loved in this part of East Sussex for his tireless work as co-artistic director of the popular annual Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival. He is also a Professor of the cello at the Royal College of Music and a virtuoso welcomed at the most famous music venues all over the World as soloist and member of award-winning chamber music ensembles, such as the Florestan Trio, Domus, Hausmusik and the London Haydn Quartet.

The Elgar Cello Concerto was not always as popular as it is today; from the 1960s it became a regular at the proms capturing the audiences’ imagination through the  Jacqueline du Pre/ Daniel Barenboim partnership. Later on a Julian Lloyd Webber’s performance further enhanced its popularity.  However the cello concerto’s premiere in 1920 was a considered a bit of a disaster and a pointer towards a decline in Elgar’s reputation in his latter years.

Nevertheless the town of Hastings kept faith with Elgar, who was a prime guest of honour at the inaugural festival for the purpose-built White Rock Pavilion in 1927. The Hastings Municipal Orchestra produced two memorable performances of Elgar’s Cello Concerto at the White Rock Pavilion in the 1930s:  in 1937 with Pablo Casals as soloist and in 1931 with his pupil Gaspar Cassado. Hastings loved the cello, judging by the popularity of Paul Tortelier’s visits  in 1952 and 1953 when he joined in Hastings music festivals but not, this time, with Elgar’s music.

The Hastings Philharmonic wishes to play a part in restoring Hastings’ reputation as a centre of excellence for classical music, something that has been reinforced especially by the growing reputation of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition. This first link between the Peasmarsh Festival and Hastings Philharmonic will make this concert a milestone event and the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky’s popular 5th Symphony at the same concert will add to the attraction of this much anticipated occasion.

HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Richard Lester – Cello
Marcio da Silva – Conductor
Cello Concerto Elgar
Symphony no.5 Tchaikovsky

At St Mary in the Castle, Pelham Crescent, Hastings,  7pm, Saturday 14th April

Tickets     £22.50/£17.50  https://www.musicglue.com/hastings-philharmonic/events/2018-04-14-tchaikovsky-and-elgar-st-mary-in-the-castle

 

ANTON LYAKHOVSKY at Opus Theatre

The Master Piano Recital

SATURDAY 14th APRIL 2018 – 7.30pm
OPUS THEATRE
24 Cambridge Road – Hastings TN34 1DJ

PHOENIX PIANO SERIES

Celebrating Extraordinary Pianists

Anton Lyakhovsky is a spectacular pianist. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He studied at the Special Music High School for Gifted Children and then at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory.
 

Anton continued his postgraduate studies with John Bingham at Trinity College of Music, and as a postgraduate at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he obtained his Master’s Degree. During his time he won many prizes at international piano competitions, including the Emmanuel Durlet International Competition (Belgium), the International London Piano, the Young Concert Artist International Audition (New York), the “Virtuosi of the year 2000” Festival (St. Petersburg), the Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition (London), the 4th International Prokofiev Competition (St. Petersburg).He also won the Grand Prix at the Jazeps Vitols International Piano Competition (Latvia) as well as a special prize as favourite pianist of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. Anton has won many prestigious scholarships including the Tillet Trust, Myra Hess Trust, and Leverhulme Trust.
He has performed at world-class venues, including the Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall, the Bösendorfer UK, the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, amongst many others.
Anton is regularly invited to be a member of the Jury for International Piano Competitions and in August 2018 Anton has been invited to be on the Panel of the 62nd Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition.
The European Piano Teachers Association regularly invites Anton to read lectures on piano performance and to lead masterclasses.  He has performed extensively across Europe and America and has a large number of Piano Concertos in his repertoire.

He has appeared as a soloist with several orchestras, including the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra “Klassika”, Mariinsky Young Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg Radio and Television Orchestra and many others

NICHOLAS McCARTHY at Opus Theatre


The Great Piano Recital

FRIDAY 13th APRIL 2018 – 7.30pm
OPUS THEATRE
24 Cambridge Road – Hastings TN34 1DJ

PHOENIX PIANO SERIES

Celebrating Extraordinary Pianists

Nicholas McCarthy, who was born without his right hand is starting this fantastic new Series. He is the first left-hand-only pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130-year history! You’ll be amazed to see him perform. Only £15. Under 16’s free of charge when accompanied by an adult.

My First Swan Lake

Peacock Theatre, 30 March 2018

Swan Lake, the latest abridged ballet for young children danced by English National Ballet School students, filled the Peacock Theatre to bursting on a wet, cold Good Friday afternoon and that’s splendid to see. I wish more family groups included dads, uncles and grandpas but it’s still terrific to attract such a large, enthusiastic audience and I’m sure that will continue to be the case as the production tours.

Choreographed by Antonio Castilla, this show features some fine dancing by some of the thirty five students in the group. Each is profiled in the programme but they are not identified as dancing specific characters because they switch roles and they don’t all appear at every performance.

The Act 2 set pieces – the Spanish, Hungarian and Italian dances – are memorable. The two girls who did the Italian dance at the performance I saw had a real lightness of touch which highlighted the humour. We also had a very promising Siegfried whose leaps were youthfully spectacular and a truly graceful Odette who several times swanned her way right across the stage en pointe with watery arms waving and at one point managed to pirouette for around twenty bars of music.

As always the real star of the show is Tchaikovsky’s gloriously expressive music. Because My First Swan Lake runs for only 90 minutes including interval, the music, which is pre-recorded, has to be cut and arranged. Gavin Sutherland has generally done quite well with it but there are one or two moments of clumsy abruptness as we switch from one thing to another.

The inclusion of a narrator is a mistake.  Credit where it’s due though: Louise Calf, an actor, does a remarkably good job with the saccharine, rather moralistic script she’s been given. She is naturalistic and warm – but completely unnecessary. She has been directed to walk frequently from the downstage left corner across to the opposite spot, often in front of the action, and it’s very distracting. Moreover no one should be shouting over Tchaikovsky when he’s in dramatic fortissimo mode, as she often has to do. And as for delivering the crucial revelation when Odette, Odile and Sigfried all learn the truth in music-free tableau with just Calf’s voice – it’s a travesty.

Ballet is story telling in music and movement. It doesn’t need words added even for three year-olds. Neither should they be handed the subliminal message that it’s perfectly acceptable to talk over great music.

ENO: The Marriage of Figaro

London Coliseum, Thursday 29 March 2018

Fiona Shaw’s enthusiastically energetic production of The Marriage of Figaro returns for its second revival with a cast as strong as any which have gone before. Performers here need to be singing actors, not simply good voices, if nothing else as a result of the constantly moving set and their need to ensure they are in the right place at the right time. Peter McKintosh’s designs bring us a world of inter-connecting rooms and corridors, peopled with servants aplenty. If I still retain doubts about the pervious and often insubstantial nature of the walls (looking remarkably like the cheapest plastic green-house double-glazing) the cast treat it all as solid and convince us in so doing.

Ashley Riches’ Count Almaviva is certainly in control of this edifice – or would be if he had a little less sex drive and a little more intelligence. His presence is impressive as is his singing, and there is no doubt he will try to get his own way on all occasions. Lucy Crowe’s Countess is a complex creation, gloriously sung and clearly torn in her feelings towards the Count, a tension which is turning her to drink. It is little touches like this which make the production so appealing and sensitive.

Thomas Oliemans’ Figaro has the extrovert good humour for the part and the instant changes of mood which need tempering by his partner Susanna – beautifully sung by Rhian Lois with a clear insight into the intelligence of her character.

Janis Kelly is a wily Marcellina and Keel Watson a bluff old cove as Bartolo, though his voice occasionally lacked projection. Katie Coventry made a very strong impression as Cherubino, convincingly boyish and gauche but radiant in voice in her two arias.

Martyn Brabbins drives the whole piece strongly from the pit, maintaining good balance and moving through the recitatives to keep the dramatic pace alive.

I doubt if this will be the last revival of this production!

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Dome Brighton, 25 March 2018

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra finished the season in fine festive fettle. I don’t often laugh aloud in the concert hall but there was plenty of that in the Dome for this unconventional programme.

Malcolm Arnold’s piano concerto op 104 – new to me, and I suspect, to most of the audience – doesn’t get out much because it was written for husband and wife Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick. Cyril Smith had lost the use of his left arm through strokes so the piece was written for three hands and two pianos – which makes it expensive and impractical for most concert promoters.  Stephen Worbey and Kevin Farrell, who work as a witty and very accomplished duo, have arranged the concerto for four hands on a single piano.

Written in 1969, it’s a very listenable piece. Both orchestra and soloists shone, especially in the middle movement which engagingly alternates schmaltz with dissonance. The last movement, for which Worbey and Farrell changed places, is very jolly with cheerful tuba vamp rather similar to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s (imitative?) Jesus Christ Superstar song for King Herod – written a year later.  Worbey and Farrell are showman musicians who warm the audience up with jokes before they start – it sits somewhere between Victor Borge and pantomime – but it’s good quality fun and their flamboyant playing is riveting. Their Sabre Dance encore – played at prestissimo and more – was a tour de force.

The concert had begun rather more conventionally with the Karelia Suite in which Barry Wordsworth allowed every section to have its moment. The busy repetitive string work in the first movement can, for instance, be hard to make lively but in this performance it did real justice to the soaring brass above it.  The warmth and suitable lushness in the two following movements, when the violins get most of the melody, was strong too.

I presume the programming of the second half was partly to create an end-of-season party atmosphere and partly to encourage people to bring children. It succeeded on both counts. It would have been good to see even more under-11s for Barry Wordsworth’s arrangement of three numbers from Act 1 of Coppelia and the Carnival of Animal, but splendid to see even twenty or so. Coppelia – like all good ballet music – is full of glorious melodies and played well, the music itself dances. Conductor and orchestra gave it their all and it was quite hard to sit still and refrain from humming along.

The concert ended with Saint-Saens’ best known piece, which – if you think about it – is another work which doesn’t get many performances in its entirety. We are very used to hearing its 14 separate sections but it’s a treat to hear all of it in one place. At the heart of it were the inimitable Worbey and Farrell who’d written hilarious Hilaire Belloc-style verses to introduce each bit – except for Pianists when Barry Wordsworth stepped forward and read a verse. Of course it was all beautifully played with accomplished solos from principal cello, principal double bass and, best of all, the xylophone. I enjoyed the off stage clarinet as the moving cuckoo too – with many of the audience looking round wondering where the sound was coming from.

The concert took place on the first day of British Summertime so I left the Dome in daylight with a real spring in my step, a head full of earworms and excitement about the next season which looks excellent – yet again.

Sussex Concert Orchestra

Christ Church, St Leonards, Sunday 25 March 2018

We know Kenneth Roberts better as a conductor than a composer but he has a large number of works to his name, many unperformed locally. It was good then to start this concert with a suite of dances drawn from his own score for the ballet Anne Garland. The story comes from Hardy’s The Trumpet Major and we heard dances for a ball, dances for a wedding and a final, reflective Epilogue. The style echoes the late romantic world of Malcolm Arnold (and even at times Malcolm Williamson!) and the dances effectively reflect the period and the events. The Epilogue by contrast avoids melancholy while highlighting the gentle pain of potential loss. There was no sense that the score did not have a place alongside the rest of the programme.

Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole is best known for its final movement and rarely heard complete. Violinist Amber Emson was fierce in the opening Allegro non troppo and elegant in the flowing Intermezzo.  Some momentary lapses in intonation from the orchestra did not distract from the overall impact.

Christ Church has a difficult acoustic for a large orchestra, the long reverberation tending to muddy the sound. Dvorak’s New World Symphony was at its best in the quieter moments, with some strong solo playing, though the brass often managed to cut through to fine effect.  The central section of the third movement, closer to Smetana than the rest of the work, flowed with an exhilarating sense of enthusiasm, and the balance was at its best in the final movement where rhythms were tighter and cleaner.

The orchestra returns to Bexhill on 3 June as part of the Bexhill Festival.

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone, Saturday 24 March 2018

Conventional programme planning need not be a problem when the works are well balanced and well played – as they were at the Mote Hall last night. A classical symphony, a romantic concerto and a symphony which lies somewhere between the two – not that the opening symphony was quite what the title might imply. Mozart’s Symphony No32 isn’t – a symphony that is. It is probably an overture, and quite a clever composition as the final section mirrors the opening. There was considerable delicacy in the playing, given that the orchestra was probably far larger than the composer had available to him at the time, but the central section needs that intimacy and certainly got it here.

Violinist Benjamin Baker is well known to the Maidstone audience after his fine Bruch last year but was an unexpected visitor on this occasion as a late, but very welcome, replacement for Bartosz Woroch who was rightly detained by more immediate family matters.

The Brahms violin concerto was a richly romantic contrast to the opening Mozart with its rapid changes of tempi and emotional impact. Benjamin Baker negotiates these with finesse and a subtle portamento which is always pleasing. The first movement cadenza brought with it the hinted swagger of a Hungarian dance before the warmth of the Adagio – with exceptional oboe playing from David Montague – and the clipped, tightly rhythmic finale. Happily he is due to return next season for the Tchaikovsky concerto.

After the interval we heard Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony which sits on the top of the hill looking back to the classical while peering into the romantic future. Some years ago Leonard Bernstein argued that it was quite possible to hear the sixth symphony as a classical work if one can ignore the titles added to the movements. This was certainly true of Brian Wright’s approach with its clean lines and clear sense of development. The strings had a wonderful sense of cantabile in the second movement without over-egging the romanticism.

The Scherzo starts off in classic form but the storm breaks the mould – almost literally given the intensity of Keith Price’s timpani playing, and the whine of the piccolo – giving way to the only developed musical line of the whole work in the final Allegretto. This was a very fine performance, musically well-paced as well as highly enjoyable.

The evening was a charity concert in aid of the Kent Community Foundation and the final concert of the season follows on Saturday 19th May with works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  www.mso.org.uk

Emma Johnson at Lamberhurst Music Festival

St Mary Lamberhurst, Friday 23 March 2018

It is easy to overlook the fact that the clarinet is a recent addition to the range of musical instruments in terms of the history of music. For Mozart it was a novelty which he happily endorsed and for which he wrote many magnificent works – one of them represented here. Emma Johnson, accompanied by Gregory Drott, opened her recital with an arrangement of the final movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet – and a very fine start it made. From there we were quickly transported to the romantic period, though Saint-Saens’ Clarinet Sonata in E flat Op167 is something of an oddity. The composer had such a long life that this late work was written in 1920, though its sound world is redolent of the mid nineteenth century. The opening movement is whimsical if not actually melancholic leading to a warmer Allegro animato. The third movement is the most striking, being almost an arrangement for clarinet and piano of a composition for Cavaille-Coll organ!

By comparison Schumann’s Fantasiestuck Op73 are lighter in texture and carry the listener with ease.

The second half brought us firmly into the twentieth century with Bernstein’s early Clarinet Sonata and three brief pieces by Stravinsky. Perhaps the most pleasing piece, however, was the suite arranged from music by Paul Reade written for Emma Johnson as incidental music for the TV series The Victorian Kitchen Garden. Throughout, Emma Johnson had introduced each work and maintained a gentle intimacy with her audience, despite the need to move from one side of the central pillar to another.

The church was full, despite a miserably damp evening, on this the first event in this year’s Lamberhurst Music Festival. The next concert brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet on Friday 25th May.

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

St Mary in the Castle, Thursday 22 May 2018

It was Ewan MacColl who created the Radio Ballads over half a century ago and The Young’uns evocative Ballad of Johnny Longstaff continues that fine tradition. Their close harmony – three male singers with sixteen songs, most of them specially composed for the event – and the visual impact of the historic photographs, would be enough to enthral in itself. However, this event goes one step further. Thanks to the strength of the oral history movement we have six hours of Johnny Longstaff himself, telling his own story. The Young’uns draw on this, winding their songs throughout the events and giving us a precise emotional encounter with historical events – and what events they are! Losing his job as a boy because of an industrial accident, he joined the hunger marches to London, slept rough by the Thames, joined the English Battalion in the Spanish Civil War and eventually fought in WWII.

Of course most of us have never heard of him. He was just one brave man among thousands, but his story is emblematic of the fight for workers’ rights and for the victory of democracy over fascism.

It was deeply moving and politically apt at the present time. The events spoke for themselves without any need for party political pressure.

The three singers are well balanced but also bring individual skills. Sean Cooney wrote most of the songs as well as leading the trio, Michael Hughes plays piano and guitar, David Eagle adds piano and accordion. A one-night-stand was not really enough to take in the wealth of a life lived so fully, and it would be good to think we might see The Young’uns again soon. More information available on www.theyounguns.co.uk