Sometimes there can be advantages in going to a rehearsal for a concert when one is unable to attend the event itself and it was a pleasure to sit in on Hastings Sinfonia the afternoon of their recent musical offering at St John The Evangelist, Pevensey Road.
The orchestra was originally brought together by Polo Piatti as a group of local players, many of them amateur, and supported by a few professional musicians who have connections with the town.
Derek Carden is their professional conductor and knows both the pleasures and the occasional pitfalls of working with dedicated local musicians. The benefits are very obvious. Rehearsal times are more plentiful, but also more intensive, and they were able to have a number of sessions with pianist Howard Southern in preparing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto – a rarity within the fully professional world where the soloist jets in at the last minute and there may not be time to go through the whole piece once, let alone iron out any little blips along the way.
Most of the minor problems related to tempi and the time available enabled some entries to be honed in a way which is normally not possible. In this way the hushed opening of the second movement of the Beethoven improved greatly in its impact in a relatively short space of time.
Before moving on to the second part of the concert there was time for a full tea, prepared by a willing team of supporters who work closely with the orchestra. Once the rehearsal had been completed they were all due to go to the house of one of the supporters for a buffet meal and time to relax and change before the evening – such is the value of local support and enthusiasm.
The Sinfonia’s repertoire is deliberately on the light side – even allowing for the fact that the Emperor was the most ambitious undertaking of a full concerto so far – and followers of Classic FM would find the second half much to their taste. They were joined by soprano Thomasin Trezise in familiar arias by Mascagni, Gounod and Bizet, whose fine soprano easily rode both the romantic orchestra and the full acoustic of the church.
The one novelty, if it might be called that, was the inclusion of Polo Piatti’s The Old Forest. This is a full-bodied romantic tone-poem, with the composer playing the important piano part, which opens like the slow movement of a piano concerto but builds to an explosion of power and nobility. Though this is very much Polo’s orchestra, his own works have a perfectly valid place within its repertoire and let us hope we will hear more of them.
Opus Theatre has now issued a full programme for the coming year and Hastings Sinfonia will bring A Fabulous Night of Film Music to the Opus on Saturday May 12. Full details of all events can be found at www.opustheatre.co.uk. By Brian Hick.