Review: Mozart’s warmth in winter chill

Hastings Philharmonic
Hastings Philharmonic

Hastings Philharmonic have not been lucky with the weather this year but it does not seem to deter its audience who turned out in the bitter cold of Saturday evening for a Mozart concert which included one of his most pessimistic works.

The evening at St Mary In The Castle in Hastings opened on a brighter note with the Sinfonia Concertante K364. The small forces brought a lightness to the score and a fine interplay, not only between the soloists, but also the whole ensemble. The Andante is written in a minor key which, given the weight of the symphony to come, seemed to dominate the evening. The soloists, violinist Aysen Ulucan and viola player Ladislau-Cristian Andris, brought a needed warmth in their playing and provided an admirable rapport between themselves.

Marcio da Silva is adept at introducing new music to Hastings, and the second half opened with a new composition by Philip O’Meara – Flacubal 95 – which is based on material drawn from Mozart’s late G minor symphony which we were to hear immediately afterwards. Those who know the symphony well would have been able to tick off the references, but even without that the piece works very well as a whole in its own right. It starts with a rustic rewriting of the opening theme from the first movement, instantly appealing and approachable. The hunting horns continue this rural idea as does a beautifully reflective section in the first movement. If there is a more introverted feel to the second movement one could hardly call it Brutal and the writing often seems tongue-in-cheek. The finale rushes in where lesser mortals might fear to tread with an instruction to play as fast as possible including a section which seems to reflect Bernard Herrmann rather than Mozart – and none the worse for that. After all the rush, the chaconne-like ending returns us to the gentle placidity of the opening. A fine piece and well worth repeating even without its Mozartian context.

The symphony which followed was crisp and alert to detail, the acidity of the G minor setting never far from our ears. Even the smooth legato of the slow movement had its sinister moments, as did the following Menuetto and the furious impact of the final movement.

Hastings Philharmonic returns on Saturday April 14 for Elgar and Tchaikovsky. Hopefully the weather might have improved by then! By Brian Hick.