2022 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition

The sixteenth prestigious Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition will take place for the first time in both Rye and in Hastings from 24th February to 5th March 2022.

Due to heating difficulties at St Mary in the Castle, which could not be sufficiently rectified and the lack of availability of The White Rock Theatre, Hastings International Piano have made the decision to move round one of the competition to Rye Creative Centre.

The second round, semi-final and finals of the competition will then return to Hastings and take place at The White Rock Theatre.

Hastings International Piano is delighted to announce that a unique partnership has been agreed with The Royal College of Music to create a graduate orchestra, administered in Hastings to offer Royal College of Music graduates orchestral training and paid
performance opportunities during the concerto competition semi-finals and throughout
the year. We are also thrilled that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will return to accompany our finalists during our two-night Final. Steinway and Sons, the most prestigious piano maker in the world was recently announced as the piano sponsor for the next concerto competition.


Tickets for all rounds of the competition at both venues in Rye and Hastings can be purchased from The White Rock Theatre Box Office from :

Monday 22 November: Presale for Friends & Patrons of Hastings International Piano

Wednesday 24 November: Public Booking Opens



Maidstone Symphony Orchestra Mote Hall 27th November 2021

Cheerful Rossini is a good, warm antidote when the weather’s wintry and we’ve just, two hours earlier, heard yet another alarming Covid press briefing. Brian Wright packed The Italian Girl in Algiers with all the fun and wit it cries out for especially through precise pizzicato, well controlled Rossini trademark accelerando passages and some lovely flute solo work (bravo principal flute, Anna Binney)

Then came the quiet modesty of Oliver Stankiewicz with Mozart’s Oboe concerto – we hear the flute version more often but, actually, it was written first for the oboe. Stankiewicz, principal oboe with London Symphony Orchestra and with a flourishing parallel solo career, enchanted an MSO audience four years ago with the Strauss concerto so it was a treat to see him back.

I loved his incisive creaminess of tone, especially in the adagio – one of Mozart’s many exquisite slow movements. In contrast he gave us lots of cheerful perkiness in the concluding rondo. His circular breathing is so fascinating to watch, that it’s almost a distraction particularly in his encore: two short movements (Pan and Arethusa) from Britten’s Metamorphoses.

In many ways, however, the most interesting work came after the interval in the shape of Brahms Serenade No 1, a substantial forty minute work. It’s very familiar from recordings and radio. But I had never heard it live before and Brian Wright told the audience that, at 75, this was the first time he’d ever conducted it in public. Perhaps because it has six movements, not thematically linked, it doesn’t feel like a symphony. Or maybe it’s because it explores different styles as it goes along. Either way it doesn’t get many outings. And it should.

It was, therefore, a real pleasure to hear MSO helping to put that right. The performance took a while to settle. I’m guessing most players hadn’t played it before. The most striking thing about the opening allegro was the pleasing work – rich and tuneful – from lower strings and although, it was arguably a bit understated, I liked the way the dance rhythms in the first scherzo were played. Then in the very “Brahmsian” central andante we got some gloriously strong sound from brass and woodwind although the upper string interjections were a bit wispy. The finest moment, for me, was the chirpy oboe (David Montague) and bassoon (Philip Le Bas) duet in the minuet before the work sauntered off to give us a vibrant second scherzo and a resounding Rondo allegro to finish.

Give it a couple of years, MSO, and then play it again, please. We need to hear this interesting piece more often

Susan Elkin

CDs November 2021

JIA LU & FRANCK OLLU, conductors
NAXOS  8.579089   67’01

This disc collects recordings of two recent works by this leading Chinese composer. Both works draw on traditional music. The Road to the Republic is a cantata dating from 2011, commemorating the centenary of the Revolution. Cantonese Suite (2005) is a large scale orchestral work. Both combine the traditional with Ye’s contemporary voice.

NAXOS  8.559897   66’48

The music of Florence Price is slowly experiencing more exposure and appreciation. Written between 1932 and 1940 the three orchestral works here also combine traditional music from a particular culture with more contemporary techniques and ideas. The Symphony No 3 in C minor is a 4 movement work, the 3rd movement being the Juba, recently aired at the Last Night of the Proms. Coupled with this are The Mississippi River and Ethipia’s Shadow in America. There is a filmic quality to much of the music here and much to explore and enjoy.

NAXOS  8.574312   56’15

The title of this CD was enough to make me want to listen and when I discovered its contents I was even keener. This is a lovely collection of music that often defies description and which comes from highly individual composers exploring spiritual themes without borders. A very welcome CD to return to for immersive listening. Included among the pieces here are two of Scriabin’s Sonatas (Nos 9 & 10) and Langgaard’s Afgrundsmusik (Music of the Abyss). Dedicated performances are given by Gustav Piekut throughout the programme.

MICHAEL DEAN, bass-baritone
NAXOS 8.559907 69’23

I sometimes find it difficult to get into the mindset of those who have commissioned works to commemorate historic occasions, particularly when they are linked to military action. Nevertheless this music is both effective and affective, combining both the triumphant and the sombre. I knew nothing of contemporary American composer Ian Krouse’s music before hearing this disc. His Symphony No 5 ‘A Journey Towards Peace’ (which includes text by Walt Whitman) is coupled with Fanfare for Heroes of the Korean War. Also included are two Symphonies of Strings, both of which draw on different musical traditions.

WERGO   WER 64352  61’31

A CD for the adventurous listener. These recent electroacoustic works by Matthias Kruger are very absorbing. Drawing on a range of techniques, traditions and technology there is great crossover between styles and genres, signifying the great freedom and wealth of experience that today’s composers enjoy. A comprehensive booklet provides helpful background to the three works – Le vide a perdre, Wie ein stuck fett (redux) and Bellygoat Boom. There is also a link to a further audio/visual performance available online, Sweep over me them dusty brooms.

RESONUS  RES10292   67’59

The newly formed all-adult choir of Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral makes its debut on Resonus with this lovely programme of carols from the twentieth century onwards. Composers include four Philips –  Stopford, Ledger, Moore and Wilby! John Gardner and Elizabeth Poston also feature with Gary Davison, John Ireland, Patrick Hadley, John Rutter, Bob Chilcott and an arrangement of Praetorius by Erling Pedersen. Matthew Owens’ Toccata on Good King Wenceslas is also included. Many of these fine recordings are world premieres.

MATTHEW OWENS, organ of Belfast Cathedral
RESONUS RES10293  78’29

A companion release to the above (although it stands well completely on its own) is this brilliant recital by Matthew Owens. This is a great collection of seasonal organ music, much of it referencing traditional carols. The title track is a piece by Howard Blake. It also includes chorale preludes (and the canonic variations) by JS Bach, JG Walther and Flor Peeters. Noels by Daquin and Guilmant represent another tradition. Other more recent composers featured are Philip Wilby, Gary Davison and Philip Moore. Matthew Owens’ own Prelude on Yorkshire is included and the CD ends with Garth Edmundson’s exuberant Toccata on von Himmel hoch.


Joanna MacGregor with Brighton Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble In Association with Brighton Dome and Strings Attached 14th November, Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton

Frank Martin (1890-1974) is not a musical household name but an interesting discovery. A French Swiss composer, he founded, and worked with, the Geneva Chamber Music Society and this three movement Trio on Popular Irish Folk tunes dates from 1925 and feels nicely international. I liked the lyrical adagio, more or less a lament in the middle of the sandwich, led off of by Peter Adams whose cello sound is compellingly warm. And there’s a deliciously quirky account of The Irish Washerwoman in the finale with lots of minor chords and dissonance all played with witty aplomb.

I was amused by Adam’s right foot which has a definite tendency to tap – a habit I’m often tactfully asked to curb but it seemed to aid rather than blight this spirited performance. And I’m fascinated by Ruth Rogers’s violin technique. She plays as if her head is joined to the violin so that when she moves it all goes together, sometimes seeming as if she is almost moving the instrument against the bow rather than the other way round. Not that it matters … her sound is full of glorious colour.

Shostakovich’s bleak Piano Trio No 2 in E Minor Op 67 really does connote the horror of 1944 in its first movement. Rogers and Adams wrung every ounce of that stark opening statement with their uncompromising vibrato-free playing and piercing harmonics. This and the third movement largo alternate with manically fast movements. These three made sure we recognised the Klezmer influences in the final allegretto, played with real excitement on this occasion.

And so to the sunny uplands of A Major and Dvorak’s second Piano Quintet (1887) which came after a short interval and for which Joanna MacGreggor, Rogers and Adams were joined by Antonia Kesel (violin) and Jon Thorne (Viola). The pleasure the five of them took in playing it was conveyed by warm smiles between them at the points in the music which call for eye contact – and MacGregor, so well known as a soloist, clearly relishes playing chamber music and smiles all the time. Her spoken introductions are upbeat too.

There was a lot of precise passion in the playing especially in the final sharing of the melody in the first movement as it is passed round. Another high spot was Adams’s Dumka cello tune with everyone else quietly vamping until he was joined by Kesel’s second violin. The scherzo is, of course, often extrapolated and played as a standalone so it was good to hear it in context for a change. What lovely work Dvorak wrote for viola (his own instrument)! Jon Thorne – deceptively insouciant – really did it justice here. And them, everyone thoroughly warmed up, they gave us the finale’s finger-flying fugue at dazzling speed. Joie de vivre was message.

It was, overall, a well balanced concert with a whole range of moods, styles and techniques. And it’s always a pleasure to go to Attenborough Arts Centre (once you’ve remembered whereabouts it is on University of Sussex’s confusing, poorly signed campus) with its attractive, acoustically well designed auditorium and pleasant coffee shop.

Susan Elkin

Great Baroque: Playing with Fire Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra Brighton Dome November 7th 2021

Brighton Dome Concert Hall | Brighton FestivalThe BPO was scaled down to Baroque proportions with lots of soloists from within its ranks for this concert. It’s a pity the audience seemed to have scaled itself down too – there were far too many rows of empty seats. They missed an elegant potpourri of 18th and late 17th century music which mixed the very familiar (Winter from The Four Seasons) with less commonly heard pieces such as Rebel’s Chaos from Les Elemens. That said, most of the programme would have been known to most of the audience and conductor/Harpsichordist Robert Howarth spoke about each piece so it was all pretty accessible both to classical music newbies and children.

We began with Jean-Fery Rebel’s extraordinary, dissonant depiction of Chaos which anticipates The Rite of Spring by nearly two centuries. It’s amazing what you can do with a descending D minor scale. It was played here with due attention to the drama and some lovely piccolo playing, the trills soaring over the texture. For me, incidentally, this was a particular treat because, although I know the piece from recordings this was the first time I have ever heard it live. So thanks for that, BPO.

Later in the programme we got three concerti: Vivaldi’s Winter (played with lots of smiling warmth and exuberance by Ruth Rogers on violin) Brandenburg 2 and Vivaldi La Tempesta di Mare in F. I particularly liked Jonathan Price’s bassoon solo work in the latter. The collaborative spirit of these Baroque concerti in which everyone joins in until solo lines emerge is very attractive.

Ruby Hughes (a last minute stand in for ill-disposed Gillian Keith) sang four arias – one Purcell and three Handel. Standing behind the harpsichord so that she was in the heart of the orchestra and could see the principal cello, she found every ounce of passion in Dido’s lament giving us a very emotionally intelligent, haunting rendering. Then came Handel’s Piangero la sorte mia from Giulia Cesare and Lasshi ch’io pianga from Rinaldo both sung with tearful conviction. I was slightly less convinced by her account of Let the Bright Seraphim, such a well known pot boiler, which needed – I think – a bit more rehearsal with John Ellwood on trumpet.

The concert ended with the chirpy grandiloquence of Music for the Royal Fireworks (well, it was the weekend of 5 November after all). For this, thirteen wind and brass players appeared, most of whom we had not previously seen and heard, along with a timpanist. Every movement was nicely pointed with lots of dynamic colour. Although this is music most of us have heard a million times before and, probably, played all sorts of arrangements of it at different times, Howarth and BPO made it feel enjoyably fresh.

Joanna MacGregor is now BPO’s Musical Director and she’s admirably hands-on. Not only did she introduce the concert at the beginning but she, several times, personally arranged stands for soloists and presented a bouquet to Ruby Hughes at the end. Good to see such real involvement.

Susan Elkin


Beginning in style with Mozart’s Symphony No 39 in E flat, the orchestra opened this concert which, although featuring the two groups was really the choir’s night! It was good to see the combined forces in action for the two pieces which followed – Morten Lauridsen’s five movement Lux Aeterna and the second Mozart composition of the evening, his well-loved Requiem.

A large and appreciative audience soaked up the music in the wonderful Victorian Anglo-Catholic splendour of Christchurch. At this time when it is still an act of faith to plan a performance on this scale and when there has been so much disruption and uncertainty for musicians it was a treat to experience this live in-person event involving so many talented and commited musicians.

The two choral works, both settings of liturgical memorial words carried additional poignancy in this remembrance season as the evening was also dedicated to three supporters of the choir who have died in recent months. One of these is Dr Brian Hick, founder of this website.

I was particularly looking forward to hearing the Lauridsen as it is a late 20th century work, a complete contrast in musical language to the works by Mozart but sharing the affinity of the text with that of the Requiem. I was a little disappointed, not for lack of commitment or effort on anyone’s part, but because of the imbalance in volume between choir and orchestra. At times this caused discrepancies in tuning and some uncertain entries. This is not easy music and even in the more subdued passages careful and confident placing of pitch is essential. There were some beautiful moments, most noticeably when the orchestral forces were greatly reduced, proving that the choir was capable but simply disadvantaged on this occasion.

There were similar issues with balance in the Requiem but the choir’s familiarity with this work meant that, despite this, it was carried off with confidence. The four excellent soloists each gave fine controlled performances producing some lovely contrasting sections throughout. I was surprised however that I found the line-up of folder, book and two different coloured I-pads quite distracting! There were some spine-tingling moments, noticeably the beginnings of the Lacrymosa and Sanctus. The overall performance from the combined forces here proved to be a satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable evening under the familiar baton of Marcio da Silva.

It is good to see the Philharmonic Choir back, performing a mixture of the well-known and the less performed, together with another great outing for the Philharmonic Orchestra. Hopefully something creative can be done to address the balance issue in the future so that the two groups will continue to flourish and collaborate.

Further information for both groups may be found at

Stephen Page