HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA White Rock Theatre Hastings 21st September 2021


At the beginning of the 6th season for the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra it was lovely to be in the surroundings of the White Rock Theatre for this concert, under the direction of conductor Marcio da Silva. In the earliest years this building (then the White Rock Pavillion) was home to another local orchestra, the Hastings Municipal Orchestra. The Municipal’s first conductor, Julian Clifford died in 1921 and to mark the centenary the opening piece in this concert was Clifford’s own Meditation. It seemed very appropriate to hear this music in these surroundings played by the original orchestra’s descendant. Although a later genre this piece had something of the British Light Music feel. I do wonder if it would have been better for this piece to appear slightly later in the programme rather than being the opening item. Further items in the programme had connections with concerts conducted by Clifford in the Municipal Orchestra’s earliest years.

Two of Mendelssohn’s works followed, their pairing emphasising some melodic links between them and also Mendelssohn’s historic importance as a popular composer. First we heard A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, followed by the Violin Concerto in E minor. It was in this that I felt the orchestra truly came alive, aided in no small part by the passionate and, at times, virtuosic playing by soloist Emil Chakalov. It was obvious that his fine performance was much appreciated by the audience.

Prior to this I felt that the orchestra sounded a little distant, possibly the result of the large draped curtains at either side of the stage and the alterations made to the ceiling when the building was redesigned decades ago. The positioning of the soloist that bit nearer to the audience seemed to also enhance the whole ensemble sound. Thankfully this more immediate sound continued into the second half with the climax of the concert, Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 in C minor. This well loved piece had obviously been keenly anticipated by many in the audience and gave a suitably thrilling ending to a fine evening of music.

It is wonderful to be able to hear this youthful and professional orchestra without having to travel to a distant destination. It is good to see the local musical heritage being valued and celebrated as the tradition of music making develops further. In this larger venue it is to be hoped that audiences will continue to grow as the season unfolds.

Further information at www.hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page

Bromley and Beckenham International Music Festival Concert 4

Credit: Andrej GrilcThe last of the four concerts which formed this weekend-long festival was a beautiful piece of synergistic programming. First we got Schumann’s Piano Quartet op 47 written in 1844 when the composer was 34. Then came Piano Quintet op 34 by Brahms first aired in 1865 when its composer was 32. Of course the two men knew each other well. Schumann championed the young Brahms and, famously, Brahms’s fondness for Clara Schumann lasted for the rest of his life.

And yet, separated by only 21 years these two works are very different and the group of top flight musicians led by Benjamin Grosvenor at Bromley Parish Church made sure that we noticed every nuance.

The Schumann was played by Grosvenor with Hyeyoon Park (violin). Timothy Ridout (viola) and Bartholomew LaFollete (cello). So attuned to each other are they that it felt like eavesdropping on a conversation – there is something very personal about chamber music played well. I admired the warm intensity they brought to the opening movement, the precise delivery of the scampering semiquavers in the scherzo and the majesty of the fugue in the finale. The highlight though, as usual with this work, was the sublime lilting 3|4 melody of the andante which these four played with gentle passion.

A different line up for the Brahms meant that Grosvenor and Park were joined by Raja Halder (who directed this delightful festival) playing second violin and Laura van de Heijden on cello. It was a fine rendering of this rather sombre work with lots of F minor melancholy delivered with plenty of dramatic tension in the first movement. In his introduction Grosvenor mentioned that the andante is clearly influenced by Schubert and yes, this quintet leaned on the rueful Schubertian insouciance before settling into Brahmsian richness. There was some especially lovely cello work from van der Heijden. And so to the portentous and then frenzied scherrzo played with all the right energy and stamina before the soulful finale opening. It was the contrasts they handled so well – taking this movement through its dance melody section to the well articulated anger at the end.

One of the remarkable things about this feisty festival is that, although these players clearly know each other very well they don’t work together regularly as a quartet or quintet – and yet the results were stunning. Lucky Bromley and Beckenham. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Susan Elkin