Two nights with the Hastings Philharmonic – the classical music scene in Hastngs is exploding….

Last night we went to a concert with the Hastings Philharmonic – orchestra and choir, for the Monteverdi Vespers. Two weeks ago we went to another, and we have more booked. Next weekend we have two nights at the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition final, and I’ve just picked up a flyer for Opera South-East’s Eugene Onegin from Philosopher’s ‘to do’ pile. The music scene round here is exploding…..

Marcio da Silva

     I’ve posted about the Piano Competition before, so won’t get into it again.  Here’s last year’s glowing write-up.  However, the Philharmonic is quite new – I think it is another cultural initiative helped by the folk up at Fairlight Hall. The choir has been around for a long itme, but has only recently been supplemented by a (high-class) professional orchestra. Back in October we had a fantastic night at St Mary-in-the-Castle for a piano concerto night, which nearly blew our ears off… the soloist was Kenneth Broburg, winner of the 2017 Piano Competition…. at the time, I said to Philosopher that it would be fantastic if they did the Elgar Cello Concerto in St Mary’s, the acoustics are amazing. And blow me down, they are – in April. We will be in the front row.
     The Artistic Director of the Philharmonic is a young Brazilian, Marcio da Silva. As well as conducting, he composes, sings (baritone and counter-tenor apparently – that must be tricky…) and plays various instruments. He seems to do all those things very well, and with considerable Latin passion….. Interestingly for Battleaxe and Philosopher, who are, as readers will know, a pair of Turkophiles, Marcio is married to Turkish violinist Aysen Ulucan. I was wondering why the Philharmonic website was advertising the Ataturk prize for composition…. for anyone who knows about Turkey, you will also know that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is (sadly, to us) no longer in favour with the current political regime.
     Anyway, two weeks ago we went to ‘Love and Despair’ at Christ Church St Leonard’s. Aysen was playing a Beethoven violin sonata, and Marcio sang the whole of ‘Winterreise’ – he’d learned it off by heart – no mean feat. I gather it was the first time he had sung it in performance, and he made a very competent fist of it. However, the weather that night was just evil – absolutely pissing rain, howling gale, freezing cold. We wondered how Aysen survived in her sleeveless gown as the savage draughts cut round the transepts – the audience all had coats on.
     Christ Church is a really beautiful. Very high church – presumably Anglo-Catholic. Huge – ornate Victorian Gothic edifice – think Pugin – lots of gilding, stained glass, wall paintings, hanging lamps, wrought iron tracery etc. Very lofty and chilly.

Christchuch St Leaonard’s

    We felt the programme would have done better in a more intimate venue. The piano (Francis Rayner) sparkled  but the acoustics did not help the violin or the voice.

Aysen, Marcio and Francis Rayner

     We saw that the Philharmonic were performing the Monteverdi Vespers – ideal for the setting, we thought, with choir, organ and earlie musicke-type orchestra ensemble, with Marco this time on harpsichord…
      So off we went last night. Quelle surprise, even colder, but at least dry and fairly windless. The church was packed, which warmed us all up a bit.

Concert pic off Twitter – I can spot Philosopher….

We enjoyed it – but again, the acoustics of the building were, in our view, not helpful. The vocals should be clear and plangent (love that word) but too much vanished fuzzily into the vault of the ceiling. The singers were ranged down the sides of the chancel – they might have done better with the choruses ranged at the back, behind the orchestra. The soloists were best when they came to the front. The orchestra was, in our view, a bit too loud. It had the usual continuo business plus an extra band that included things like cornettos and sackbuttery. Call me ignorant but I think there is no mystery as to why some of those instruments fell out of use…. There was even an archlute – have never seen one of those.
    Did I ever tell you that when Battleaxe was married to her first husband she lived downstairs (in Peckham) from Peter Davies, director of a very well known early music group – the Medieval Ensemble of London. Sackbutts, shawms, crumhorns, rebecs – fabulous  at 3 in the morning. Worst thing, I complained to them about noisy singing of some woman with a very piercing voice – turnend out to be Rogers Covey-Crump, counter-tenor…
    Anyway, who is grumbling when we are so lucky to have high class music like this in lil’ ole’ Hastings….

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