A highlight of Hastings week

Hastings Day Gala Symphony Concert at St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings, on October 14 featured Kenneth Roberts’ Sussex Concert Orchestra, and soloist Jessica Zhu.

Review by Marrion Wells.

FOR many of those present this finale event was the highlight of the entire Hastings Week, with Kenneth and his players rising to the occasion in their performance of a popular but musically challenging programme from the very first notes of the Tchaikovsky ‘1812’ Overture.

Most know it as ‘the one with bits of the Marseillaise in it’ without perhaps realising how physically demanding it is of all sections of the orchestra.

Written to commemorate Napoleon’s catastrophic 1812 retreat from Moscow, it also includes parts of the Tsarist national anthem.

The full resources of the orchestra were recognised by the audience showing their appreciation with prolonged applause.

The players were equally meticulous in their supporting role in the Schumann A minor Piano Concerto.

Those of us who had the pleasure of hearing (and voting for) Jessica Zhu at the Piano Concerto Competition were delighted to hear her again, being amazed anew at such power emanating from such a tiny frame.

With the rapid changes of mood throughout the three movements, her concentration never faltered, at the finale, looking as fresh and as charming as when she made her entrance.

Throughout the three movements, a bright allegro, a gracious andante and a lively allegro finale, she showed the expertise which has ensured her international success and left us wondering why Schumann never wrote another piano concerto.

The popularity of Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony (originally No 5 but now No 9) has overshadowed the others but Kenneth’s choice of the one immediately preceding it, No 8 in G major, showed an equally wide choice of mood.

Beginning with a bright and sparking allegro, a softer mood in the adagio, a gentle allegretto grazioso, and finally the allegretto non troppo, so that the 2012 Hastings Week ended literally on a high note.