Prom 64

Royal Albert Hall, Thursday 30 August 2018

If ever a concert proved that you don’t have to be a glitzty, glamorous visiting orchestra to produce something stunning, this one was it. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, under their Principal Guest Conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada, quite blew me (and most of the spellbound audience) away with this account of Verdi’s finest opera, sorry, Requiem.

Logistically it isn’t easy in the Royal Albert Hall to stage a work of this magnitude. With two rows of choir on the tiers behind the orchestra and the rest in the lower rows of the designated choir stalls the furthest singers are a very long way from the conductor, who wisely took it all at a measured pace, focusing on musical detail rather than metronomic extremes to accommodate the time lag. Also potentially problematic was the distance between the sopranos and altos across the orchestra but if they were having difficulty hearing each other it didn’t show. And as for the poor tenors and basses standing within inches of the bass drum, they too seemed unfazed. All credit to them. I sang this work standing next to it once in the front row of the altos. Every time the percussionist hit her bass drum in the Dies Irae the vibrations left me literally senseless and unable to breathe or sing for the next three bars.

But Orozco-Estrada, who mouthes with the choir and supports his soloists (including mezzo, Sarah Connolly who stepped in at the last minute) very carefully, ensured that none of that mattered at all. And his focus on sensitive dynamics packed in all the drama Verdi wanted. His opening pianissimo introit was almost imperceptible in its softness. The later forces of the Dies Irae and Sanctus were rivetingly powerful. And I loved the radiant tuba mirum section which, at the performance included the intriguing cimbasso – a form of angled bass trombone.

Also beautifully milked for emotion and melody was the deliciously sensuous lacrymosa with soprano Lise Davidsen and Sarah Connolly in duet against the brass section. Their agnus dei was nicely balanced and sung too.

All four soloists did a good job but tenor Dmytro Popov was utterly outstanding. His Ingemiso section of the Dies Irae brought the sort of clarity and brightness which makes you sit bolt upright in your seat in astonishment and admiration.

The choir (chorus master: Neville Creed) rose to the challenge and did magnificently well too. At full pelt I should think they could be heard down by Harrods – with their excellent tuning and crisp timing, especially in Verdi’s glorious Sanctus.

And finally to that quivering, passionate Libera Me which Davidsen delivered with such intensity that the audience was completely stilled – and that is rare at the Proms. Bravo!

Susan Elkin

CDs/DVDs September 2018

Donizetti: La Favorite
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Fabio Luisi

Ariel Garcia-Valdes’ production of the Paris version of La Favorite is thankfully uncomplicated, preferring to tell its story directly and allow the singers to enjoy the many delights of Donizetti’s musical line. Veronica Simeoni is a fine Leonor and more than ably matched by Celso Albelo as Fernand. Fabio Luisi conducts with vigour, keeping the pace for what is an unexpectedly long work, alive at all times.


Dutilleux: Symphony No1
Orchestre National de Lille, Jean-Claude Casadesus
NAXOS 8.573746

It is easy to forget that Dutilleux is essentially a modern composer, having died as recently as 2013. His first symphony dates from 1951 and has a brooding, introspective quality which only really opens up in the final movement. Metaboles was inspired by the woodwind of the Cleveland Orchestra but perhaps the most interesting piece here is Les Citations with its use of harpsichord and wind with percussion. Possibly an acquired taste but one worth investigating.


Peter Graham: Metropolis 1927
Black Dyke Band, Nicholas Childs
NAXOS 8.573968

Peter Graham’s scores are immediately accessible while drawing heavily on their source material. On the Shoulders of Giants quotes liberally from Bruckner’s 8th Symphony in its opening pages, and Paramount Rhapsody draws on Benny Goodman. Perhaps the most interesting is the score based on scenes from Metropolis. Rather than a soundtrack for the film itself, this is an atmospheric piece – with obvious references to Gershwin and Bernstein – reflecting on the film as it impinges on the viewer today. The Black Dyke Band are their usual impeccable selves throughout.


Louis-Gabriel Guillemain: Flute Quartets Op12
Wilbert Hazelzet, flute, Fantasticus

Louis-Gabriel Guillemain died in 1770 and was highly thought of in his own time, though his reputation all but disappeared during the nineteenth century. He was much appreciated in the court of Louis XV though his timid nature did not make him a successful soloist even in his own music. The Op12 Flute Quartets were published in 1743, the first of two sets for the instrument. They are delightful pieces, here recorded with enthusiasm and lovely fluidity of line.


J S Bach: Goldberg Variations
Wolfgang Rubsam, lute-harpsichord
NAXOS 8.573921

This is splendid recording and all the better for using Keith Hill’s lute-harpsichord. Where a piano or conventional harpsichord can often seem too percussive, the effect here is of a much smoother, warmer legato – at times almost a cantabile – effect, which is intimate and absorbing. The mood shifts and sensitive without being brusque. Listen to it in one go – it is worth the effort and the time needed!


J S Bach: Harpsichord Concertos (transcribed for mandolin)
Davide Ferella, Dorina Frati, mandolins, Profili Barocchi

If you know these works well in their original harpsichord recordings then the joy of this new cd may come as something of a revelation. It smiles all the time, and the lightness and sense of tight, bright rhythms is infective throughout. A real delight.


Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander
Bayreuth Festival 1959, Wolfgang Swallisch
BR KLASSIK C 9361821

This is another production we were fortunate enough to see at Bayreuth in 1965 and this recording certainly does it justice. The acoustic and real sense of a live performance are imminent throughout with all the noises and atmosphere of one of Wieland Wagner’s finest creations. Wolfgang Sawallisch is again in the pit and drives the score with fire and authority, and the cast live up to expectation with Leonie Rysanek an outstanding Senta and Josef Greindl at his gruff best as Daland. You’ve probably got a number of Hollander’s already but this is worthy adding to them.


Mendelssohn: String Quartets Op12 & Op81
Minguet Quartett
CPO 777931-2

As well as Op12 & 81, the Minguet Quartett include the String Quartet in E flat of 1823. This was written at the age of 14 and has been often overlooked as being to obviously a student work – which it very much is not – listen to the Adagio if you need any proof. The other two works are hardly any less convincing and here given performances of great clarity and rhythmical incisiveness.


Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata; seven bagatelles Op33
Pavel Kolesnikov, piano

For a single cd there is an awful lot on this disc and it is all very well worth listening too. Even if you have a number of recordings of the Moonlight Pavel Kolesnikov’s approach is persuasive and musically pleasing throughout. The cd also includes four WoO pieces, the Op14 G major Sonata and the 32 Variations on an original theme in C minor, in addition to the Seven Bagatelles.

Prom 60

Royal Albert Hall, Monday 27th August 2018

Marin Alsop is one of those conductors whose very presence in the building creates a buzz of excitement. And this time she was at the Proms for the first time with her own “band”, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a concert which marked the end of a high profile Bernstein centenary weekend. The fact that Alsop was a protégé of Bernstein, and knew him well, added yet more frisson.

It was a concert which began and ended with fire. Bernstein’s Slava! (A Political Overture) is a lovely pot pourri of characteristic Bernstein jazzily syncopated melodies and includes a delightful oboe solo, percussionists visibly counting with their bodies and familiar recorded voices over the music to ensure that the piece lives up to its title.

An hour later, the concluding performance of Shostakovitch’s Fifth Symphony was pretty colourful.  Alsop, working without a score, achieved terrific tension in the first movement between the driving strings and interjections or responses from strident brass, gentle woodwind and assertive piano. She is very good too at finely calibrated dynamics and the Royal Albert Hall acoustic supports that especially when it’s (literally) full to the rafters as for this concert. Also enjoyable were the bassoon solo at the opening of the allegretto and the leader’s solo with its sparky glissandi in and out of harmonics. Then we got a suitably mysterious largo with lots of nicely controlled warmth from lower strings and a triumphant rich sound, as incisive as it needs to be, in the fourth movement.

The problem was the jam in the concert sandwich which turned out to be a very restrained, less than jammy,  account of Bernstein’s Second Symphony: The Age of Anxiety with Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing solo piano in what is, in effect, a piano concerto. Of course, the piece is Bernstein in a most sober, Samuel Barber-like mood but it’s a pity to play it so dully. Of course Thibaudet played competently and Alsop ensured that the orchestra supported him effectively but there was nothing engaging about it apart from some nifty zylophone playing.

Incidentally, this is the first time in over 50 years of concert going that I’ve ever seen a page turner on stage with a concerto soloist. There’s no reason why not, of course, but maybe it suggests that Thibaudet is still feeling his way with this piece which is why it seemed a somewhat lacklustre performance? Not that any of this stopped the enthusiastic Proms audience summoning him back for an encore.

Susan Elkin

Prom 6 at Cadogan Hall and Prom 51

Monday 20th August 2018

There was an unexpected link between these two Proms – loss, death and redemption. The lunchtime Prom at Cadogan Hall brought Sakari Oramo together with the BBC Singers for an a cappella concert of English choral music, opening with Frank Bridge’s setting of Shelley’s Music, when soft voices die. This set the tone for the day, its Elgarian melancholy resting easy on the ear before the equally lyrical Vaughan Williams setting of O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes. The harmony here is particularly effective with the strong bass line supporting at the end as if to raise up the spirits of the mourners.

Holst’s Nunc dimittis seemed conventional by comparison with these first two but the polyphonic feel to the conclusion is effective.

The premiere of Laura Mvula’s Love Like a Lion – a setting of verse by Ben Okri – was quite at home within the earlier English composers. She draws on the spiritual tradition as well as gospel harmonies to create an immediacy of contact yet one that has a very clear voice of its own. Like a Child had delicacy and clarity, while I will not die used solo voices against the strength of the united choir. The final Love like a lion is closer to the spiritual tradition but wears its history lightly. The work was very well received and rightly so as Laura Mvula’s writing has individuality as well as an ability to communicate at a first hearing.

The longest work in the programme was Parry’s Songs of Farewell. It opens with a fine sense of conviction in the face of loss. My soul there is a country and I know my soul speak of faith confronting adversity, and rising above it, and Never weather-beaten sail of the desire for release. However the intensity of feeling seems to get dissipated as the cycle continues. There is an old belief draws on Lutheran modes as well as Elgarian harmonies but it seems as if Parry’s heart is not really in it and by the time we come to the final setting of Psalm 39 there is an uncomfortable sense of simply wanting to get to the end without any overall shape or vision for the outcome.

When so much of the earlier parts of the programme had been so moving it was a pity to end on a rather deflated note.

No such problem at the Royal Albert Hall in the evening where the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. They opened with a lucid, expansive reading of the Prelude to Act one of Wagner’s Parsifal, the silences being all the more effective within the vast spaces of the hall.

After this they were joined by Malin Bystrom for Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs. Again it was the clarity of line within Strauss’ often complex orchestration which impressed, allowing the soprano to float over it without any sense of stress or undue pressure. The opening of September shimmered into life, a sense of hardly being there at all held throughout, with the solo violin part in Beim Schlafengehen particularly effective.

If the reality of death seemed all too close in Im Abendrot then the larks at the end brought a transcendency and openness that was breathtaking. One could hardly imagine the work better sung or played.

CDs August 2018

STEVEN DEVINE, Harpsichord
RESONUS RES10214 (3 CDs) 79’26; 66’45; 73’28

Steven Devine’s performances on the harpsichord have earned him a reputation as one of the finest interpreters of this repertoire. Here we have a beautifully packaged set which collects the Preier Livre de Pieces de Clavecin (1706), Pieces de Clavessin (1724), Nouvelles Suites de Pieces de Clavecin, Les Indes Galantes, Cinq Pieces (1741), :a Dauphine (1747) and Devine’s own transcription of Air pour Zephire. These are lovely performances of very characteristic music.


SIMON NIEMINSKI, organ of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
RESONUS RES10217  74’10

Eugene Reuchsel’s music is not well known. These two extended works date from the end of the composer’s life but serve as a good introduction to this French organist/pianist composer who died in 1988. The music draws heavily on French folk tunes and is worth exploring in these engaging performances.


WELLS CATHEDRAL CHOIR, Director Matthew Owens
RACHAEL LLOYD, mezzo-soprano, PHILIP DUKES, viola, DAVID BEDNALL, organ
RESONUS RES10211  63’48

All the music on this CD by American composer, Gary Davison, has been commissioned by Wells Cathedral. To be found here are fine performances of the Wessex Service (Evening canticles), Missa pro defunctis and anthems Awake my soul  and Most High Glorious God.


DE PROFUNDIS, Conductor Robert Hollingworth
HYPERION CDA68257  70’49

Renaissance manuscripts continue to be rediscovered and reassessed. Performances such as this breathe new life into this music that was written for very specific circumstances four hundred years ago. The mass setting here relates to the Feast of the Transfiguration and is written for up to eight voices. Alongside the Mass are a number of motets.



This CD collects a number of French Baroque chamber works by composers including Marini, Biber & Kapsberger. As with previous releases from this label this ancient music comes alive in fresh performances.


LASZLO ROZSA, recorder, JONATHAN REES, viola da gamba, ALEX McCARTNEY, theorbo

This is a very engaging programme, presenting mostly suites and a sonata by a number of composers including Philido, Hotteterrre and Buterne together with shorter pieces by Couperin and de Bousset. The combination of instruments makes for great listening.


PASSACAGLIA Baroque Ensemble

Increasingly innovative programming is necessary to carve a niche in the crowded recordings market. Here is an interesting idea – reworked music by Vivaldi from JS Bach and N Chedeville as well as individual works by Vivaldi and Chedeville. The booklet provides interesting details about the relationships between the various pieces and the manner in which they were published and promoted. A well thought out production which is worth exploring.


CHANDOS CHSA5187  74’22

Michael Collins has long been respected for his well-informed and convincing performances. Here he performs the dual role of soloist and conductor with these early 19th C works by this Finnish composer.


IRISH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, Jorg Widmann, Conductor
ORFEO C945 181 A  62’04

Another dual role is cexecuted here by Jorg Widmann – as conductor and composer of two of the works. What at first appears a strange juxtaposition actually works very well with the two contemporary works being framed by Mendelssohn (and beginning with The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave). I was unaware of the Widmann works but enjoyed them very much. A CD to return to.


HYPERION CDA68176  80’03

Although being in awe of Stephen Hough’s playing I was not particularly excited when I read the listing of this CD. However, when I read the beginning of the booklet I realised that it is actually something rather special. Rather than a random selection of the known and the unknown it consists of arrangements and complete re-workings of these pieces by this master of the piano. Beginning with the Radetzky Waltz (after Strauss) this is a wonderful programme of variety and inventiveness. A dream indeed!




International Composer Festival 2018


Grand Opening Concert

The International Composers Festival opens with the very best in beautiful, melodic music, carefully chosen from hundreds of entries, performed in the presence of  most of the composers, who are travelling from all corners of the globe to attend

With the International Composers Festival Orchestra and guest soloists:

Sergio Puccini (guitar) Sarah Thurlow (clarinet) Jane Gordon (violin) Katerina Mina (soprano) Andrew Gill (trumpet)

7 pm Friday 21st September
Opus Theatre, Hastings
Tickets £15 in advance £18 at the door
Free for under 18’s
Includes welcome drink


Small Is Beautiful

Music that Moves The Spirit

Chamber concert

Solo instrumentalists and small ensembles with several world premieres

10.30 Saturday 22nd September
De La Warr Pavilion
£12 in advance £15 at the door
Free for under 18’s –  Students  18 -25 £10



One Beautiful Cinematic Journey 

A mesmerising blend of cinematic music and ambient soundtrack by Brighton composer Penny Loosemore,  performed by her string, piano and clarinet quartet, set to big screen visuals by 15 international filmmakers.

1.30 Saturday 22nd September
De La Warr Pavilion
£10 in advance £12 at the door
Free for under 18s  – Students 18 -25 £5


Camera, Sound Play

Thrilling Music from Films, television and computer games with International Festival Orchestra and guest soloists including Oliver Poole (piano) Justin Pearson (cello) Sunny Li (piano)

Includes music from  La La Land and  Harry Potter plus computer game Oure

Enjoy the power of live music with a big orchestra.


7pm Saturday 22nd September
De La Warr Pavilion
£15 in advance £18 at the door
Free for under 18’s


Total piano

 East meets West

Informal conversation and performance

with International piano stars

Oliver Poole and Sunny Li together with

Festival’s Artistic Director Polo Piatti discussing the

art of improvisation and composing

Music, Q and A and performances by Sunni Li and Oliver Poole

10.30 Sunday 23rd
De La Warr Pavilion
Tickets:  £12 in advance £15 at the door
including coffee and cake
Free for under 18’s Students 18-25 £10


Dancing Around The World

A concert for the whole family with Dance and live music

Including premiere of The Crane’s Wife, a specially commissioned ballet composed by Nobuya Monta based on a Japanese fairy story choreographed by Masu Uesugi and performed by her ballet company coming especially from Japan.

Plus six specially commissioned  symphonic dances from around the globe with the International Composers Festival orchestra , choreographed and performed by local dance schools

4pm Sunday 23rd September
De La Warr Pavilion
£12 in advance £15 at the door
Free under 18’s Students 18-25 £10


Tickets available from
Opus Theatre concert Friday 21st September
Hastings Tourist Information Centre


All other concerts at the De La Warr Pavilion
De La Warr Ticket office and online


Festival  VIP passes to all 6 concerts at both venues £60
(a minimum saving of £15)
Hastings Tourist Information CentreDe La Warr Ticket Office


Please Note: Under 16’s must be accompanied by a paying adult

Prom 43

Royal Albert Hall, Tuesday 14th August 2018

Famously founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, West-Eastern Divan even looks different from other orchestras. It comprises young players from Israel, Palestine and several Arab countries to promote coexistence and intercultural dialogue and you can see the unusual and very welcome diversity before they play a note.

It’s also eye-catching because it’s so huge that it spread along all the tiers right up to the beginning of the Royal Albert Hall’s choir seating although different players come and go for different works – the programme for this rather special concert being as diverse as the players. If anything, the choice of works felt a bit random.

Daniel Barenboim, of course, has become one of those rare conductors who is so beloved and respected that he gets rapturous, near-ovatory, applause even before he raises his baton. In this case he was greeted by a very excited hall full almost to capacity.

We started with the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin. Not advertised in advance, it formed a welcoming, vibrant, tuneful warm up, almost like an encore at the “wrong” end of the programme. Then, still with Tchaikovsky, it was on to Lisa Batiashvili and a rousing account of the violin concerto. Georgian born, she gave us lots of Russian colour with exceptionally clear runs in the first movement. She took it a tad slower than some performers but it was a treat to hear the detail so lovingly articulated. Her dynamics are beautiful too. Filling the vast space of the Royal Albert Hall with very soft trills on harmonics so that every single listener is gripped is no mean feat. Her drama of her finale was well judged and balanced too.

After the interval came the London premiere of Looking for Palestine by David Robert Coleman. It is, effectively, a setting of two scenes from the play, Palestine by Najla Said, Edward Said’s daughter, and tells the story of her thinking about yearning for Palestine at the time of the 2006 war in Lebanon during a visit there and while living in New York.   Musically it’s dramatic with a great deal of interesting percussion – programmatic bangs, whistles and sirens – with anxious twittering strings and a strange twanging across-the-body plucked, string instrument (lute?) which plays a continuo at the front. Barenboim conducted the piece carefully from a score the size of a broadsheet newspaper – the only work in this concert which he didn’t do from memory.

The text was sung in this performance by soprano Elsa Dreisig and that was where the real problem lay. Almost all of it is pitched very high in the voice which meant that the words were, in this case, totally inaudible. Without the printed programme which included the words for this piece it would have been utterly impossible to work out what was happening. The best music speaks for itself. It doesn’t need explanation or resources to support it. I did admire Dreisig’s wistful glissandi, though.

The final work was Scriabin’s 1905 “fourth symphony” which is titled The Poem of Ecstasy and not structured like a classical symphony. It’s a grandiloquent showcase for Western-East Divan and Barenboim allowed all the detail and exotic, sometimes erotic, music to resonate. The principal trumpet got a well deserved round of applause at the end and I liked the way we heard plenty of that slightly grating, gravelly sound of muted trombones adding to the rich chords and cadences. The climactic blaze of bells, drum rolls and scrubbing strings was pretty memorable too.

It was a moving concert because of what West-Eastern Divan stands for – a concert with a sub-text, if you like.  But the standard is impressive as well.  The power of the playing and musical cohesion, especially in the first half, moved me in a different way.

Susan Elkin

Hastings Philharmonic’s New Season

2018/2019 Season

We are thrilled to announce our new season with so many exciting concerts and events. Thank you for supporting us last season and we hope to have fulfilled your expectations. If you were a Hastings Philharmonic Friend/Advertiser we will soon be sending you an invitation to our Friends event which will happen in September. If you weren’t a friend last season become a Bronze Friend for £250 and have access to all concerts. No need to book, after you become a member all you need to do is show up. Please note that our first concert this season, in collaboration with Rye Festival, is not part of our Hastings Season therefore you would need to buy tickets separately.

To become a member please write to [email protected] and we will guide you through.

The three highlights of the season are Handel’s Messiah in November, Carmina Burana in April and the final of the Atatürk Composition Competition which was organized by the Hastings Philharmonic in a concert that will include Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture and Stravisky’s Firebird 1919 Suite.

Our Hastings Season Opening Concert will happen on Friday 12th October with the 2018 winner of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition Roman Kosyakov playing Brahms monumental second piano concerto. We hope to see you there.

Explore our 2018/2019 season HERE and start booking your tickets


Opera Anywhere: Patience

Hever Castle, Sunday 12 August 2018

Patience is a strange work even for G&S. Though there are two strong tenor parts there is no obvious tenor lead and the two would be poets via for our attention for most of the evening. As such it is ideal for an ensemble company such as Opera Anywhere who need to double up and ask us to draw on our own imaginations, with five love sick maidens rather than twenty!

The key figure in the narrative is Patience herself and Jennifer Clark had a gentle naivety and a sweet voice absolutely right for the part. She may be out of her element where the aristocratic ladies are concerned but she has a strength of will and is not afraid to speak up for herself.

The two poets vying for her affection are equally strongly cast. David Jones’ Bunthorne is a young man almost out of his depth but concerned to keep up appearances – until he literally lets his hair down to reveal his true feelings to the audience. By contrast the narcissistic Grosvenor of Dale Harris seems far more content to stare at himself in the mirror that at anyone around him. Their final duet When I go out of doors was splendidly done, though it would take a lot more to convince me that Grosvenor has actually changed for the better at the end.

While the poets easily reflect nineteenth century aestheticism – and our understanding today of Oscar Wilde – the position of the Dragoon Guards is more complex. We don’t ‘read’ soldiers in quite the same way today, and their patronising expectations are more difficult to accept. Tristan Stocks’ Dunstable is finely sung but the part does not let him expand the character as he is able to do as Frederic or Nanki-Poo.  Mark Horner’s updating of the Colonel’s patter song was effective though the onset of bad weather (a literal deluge for the second half of the first act) did not help the text to carry.

Vanessa Woodward again takes on the thankless task of Gilbert’s aging females, in this case giving us a wonderfully believable (I was going to say filled-out but that might be misunderstood) Lady Jane. She might not have played the cello for us but at least, even with the small ensemble, there was a live cello on stage – thank you Rosie Burchett.

Sullivan’s score has many fine moments and it was the more heart-felt ones which really scored. Patience’s Love is a plaintive tale and the Mozartian duet Long years ago were both movingly sung.

Nia Williams was as usual guiding the score from the piano and was joined by flautist Nick Planas.

If you have not caught any of the G&S this year there is still time, with Pirates on punts yet to come and performances across the south of the country running up to late November with a final Patience at Lewes Little Theatre on 29th December.