When Marcio da Silva announced last year that Hastings Philharmonic was launching a fully professional symphony orchestra for the South East it seemed a risky undertaking; yet here we are, and the evidence of success was fully formed at St Mary in the Castle last Saturday.
This had to be one of the finest orchestral performances in this building and potentially one which will herald a new era for symphonic music in our area. Where the performance last year of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony had been brave if not quite fully fledged, there was no problem here with either the Beethoven or the Brahms.
The evening opened with a passionate and fiery reading of Beethoven’s Egmont overture, with a crisp attack and real sense of drive and energy. The sudden horn calls at the climax were electrifying and set a level of expectation.
Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy is a glorious work unfortunately eclipsed by the finale of the Choral Symphony itself, but here given the sensitivity it requires to make a full impact. Andre Dolabella was a limpid and persuasive piano soloist, apparently floated between the orchestra and the raised choral forces. Beethoven indulges himself in a wide range of solo writing, including a lovely passage for string quartet which was very effective before the entrance of the chorus. Here the top sopranos were particularly impressive and the small male force accurate and very well focused.
After the interval we came to Brahms’ Second Symphony. The tonal palette here is quite different and relies more heavily on the string textures. Brahms frequently leads with the lower strings who were more than up to the task with their warm tone and insightful phrasing. The fleetly moving string passages of the third movement were handled with great skill as we moved effortlessly into the finale with its blazing brass chorus and highly extrovert impact.
It was received with great enthusiasm. Marcio should be proud of what he has achieved so far and the programme for next year is demanding and exciting. Let us hope that somebody of this level of professional skill is not head-hunted too soon! By Brian Hick