Saturday 30th November 

Review by Andrew Myers @twoblackcats11

HIP readers don’t need me to tell them that there’s no shortage of outstanding home grown music talent on offer in Hastings. That said, the London Mozart Players (LMP) debut concert at a packed-out Opus Theatre represents a real coup for the town, underlining Hastings’s growing status as a musical hub attracting names of international significance. 

Established in 1949, the LMP are one of the country’s finest chamber orchestras, having worked with artists as distinguished as Felicity Lott, Jane Glover, Nicola Benedetti and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

And on a personal note, it was a recording of Mozart’s clarinet concerto by the LMP (on cassette, that’s how old school I am) that introduced me to classical music many years ago.

But this is not a case of some big stars breezing into town and waltzing off into the sunset, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. Composer and Opus Theatre director Polo Piatti has persuaded the LMP to stick around for a whole series of concerts, concluding in June with the world premiere of Libera Nos, a multi-faith oratorio written by Piatti himself.

And as executive director Julie Desbruslais explained, the LMP are committed to outreach work, and this residency encompasses a range of events intended to engage with the local community, including visits to Hastings primary schools, a free event in Hastings Library, and work with local choirs and musicians. 

The Opus Theatre seems to have been designed specifically to illustrate the phrase ‘crumbling splendour.’ It’s a truly impressive space with a wonderful acoustic, no doubt one of the attractions for high profile artists such as the LMP. 

But, although Polo Piatti humorously reassured the audience that the building is ‘structurally safe’ (it’s always good to know that you are not going to come to actual physical harm in the middle of an Allegro con Brio), the venue is evidently in need of urgent restoration work. To that end, proceeds from the concerts go towards maintenance.

For this concert, the London Mozart Players worked without a conductor, instead directed from the first violin by Ruth Rogers, lending a chamber-style intimacy to their performances. I am used to a fuller sound in 19th Century repertoire such as the opener, Grieg’s Holberg suite, but the transparent texture allowed us to relish the details of Grieg’s string writing.

But cards on the table. I am a well-intentioned classical music enthusiast, most certainly not a professional critic or competition judge. So I’m very pleased indeed that I did not have to choose between the performances of BBC Young Musician winner Lauren Zhang on piano, and local rising star Daisy Noton on flute, in a brace of Mozart concertos.

For my money, both performances were absolutely first class. Both soloists projected a real authority to the audience, totally calm and in control. 

Zhang was clean, crisp and precise in K 271. And although Mozart famously hated the flute, I’m sure if he had heard Daisy Noton’s performance of K 313, he would have written a dozen more flute concerti. The home crowd justifiably went wild.

The Concert ended with Haydn’s ‘Trauer’ Symphony no. 44, which he requested should be played at his funeral – a case of ‘it’s my funeral and I’ll play my Mourning Symphony in E minor if I want to!’.

I did wonder whether concluding with a symphony after two sparkling showpieces might seem a let down. But I could not have been more wrong. The LMP were totally in their element here in a lively and energetic performance of a work that, despite its tragic moniker, came across as joyful and life affirming.

The LMP returns to Hastings on February 7th 2020, collaborating with local musicians of all ages and abilities in a celebration of string music
at St Mary’s in the Castle.

Visit www.opustheatre.co.uk for more details


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