Havant Symphony Orchestra and Valentina Seferinova at Hayling Island Community Centre, 21 Sep 2013

23 Sep

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Hayling Island is, one might say, the poor cousin of Portsea Island, the latter being home to the major city of Portsmouth and its seaside sister Southsea. Hayling by comparison has a tiny population though it is just as large geographically and boasts, in Langston harbour, an equally impressive haven from the Solent.

The love of good music is, by last Saturday night’s evidence, also just as great in Hayling. The unassuming, indeed drab and uninspiring shell of the Hayling Community Centre belied the fine musical experience going on inside as the Havant Symphony Orchestra, under the assured conducting of Colin Jagger and accompanied by internationally acclaimed pianist Valentina Seferinova, delivered a stirring and highly accomplished evening of popular classics.

There is very little tiering of seats at the Centre, so if like my wife and I, you don’t arrive early, your view of the stage area  may be very limited especially when the hall is packed to the gunwhales as on this occasion.

We settled in for the first offering, Offenbach’s Orpheus In The Underworld overture. It was clear early on that this is a quality orchestra with high standards. Colin Jagger has studied conducting at an advanced level here and in the USA and his skill was evident. Paradoxically, it can be noticeable sometimes in a professional orchestra that some players are jaded or uninspired, whereas amateurs tend to be driven by sheer love and enthusiasm and in the right hands can produce a better result. I couldn’t resist foot-tapping to the can-can finale and was further entertained by observing the faces of my companion audience members as they struggled with the urge to loosen up.

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And so to the main event as far as I was concerned: Grieg’s Piano Concerto with soloist Valentina Seferinova. Valentina is my piano teacher, I am proud to confess, so it’s hard to review her performance in an unbiased way. But I am sure the majority of the audience would agree that her delivery of this beloved work lived up to the drama and beauty that Grieg’s masterpiece is so well known for. Outstanding in his ability to evoke both the powerful and the delicate susceptibilities of the human spirit, Grieg created one of the most loved works of its kind. During the virtuoso solo passages Ms Seferinova, devoted entirely to her task, enraptured the audience. As I looked around, everywhere that wonderful power of music to subdue the animal instincts and stir the spiritual was in evidence. The piano itself, a not-so-huge grand, was not quite capable in the hall of fully conveying Ms Seferinova’s passion and seasoned virtuosity but both came across in plenty. I was disappointed at first not to get a better view of the pianist but was treated to a good view of her hands reflected in the glossy varnish of the piano lid.

Colin Jagger expertly wove the orchestra and piano parts together, each enhancing, as they should, the drama of the other. The genuine spontaneity and enthusiasm of the closing applause testified to the excellence of the performance.

Sadly, due to the exigencies of ferry travel late in the evening my wife and I had to leave before the performance of Beethoven’s 5th that completed the programme.

Great music is alive and well on the South Coast.

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