The Solent Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 25th anniversary with a splendid concert in Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.
The orchestra’s very first concert back in 1992 also featured Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man in the same venue, to an audience of just 100 people.
25 years on and the audience is much bigger, but some of the same faces are still there – most notably Steve Tanner, who has conducted the orchestra throughout.
The second piece on the programme, Vaughan Williams’ wonderful Thomas Tallis Fantasia, works particularly well in the cathedral acoustic.
The star attraction of the evening, however, is provided by Dame Patricia Routledge as the narrator in Saint-Säens’ evocative Carnival of the Animals.
Dame Routledge’s diction is crystal clear and she delivers the poems with characteristic panache.
The orchestra, meanwhile, depict the animals very colourfully with some beautiful work from the two pianists, Valentina Seferinova and Peter Rhodes.
After the interval comes a lively account of Dvorák’s eighth Symphony, for which the whole orchestra is in great form – from the melodious cello opening to a beguiling violin solo, some expert woodwind work, and through to the rousing brass of the finale.
The achievement of this orchestra – both in managing to continue through difficult financial times – and in the quality of its performances, is remarkable. Portsmouth is very lucky to have it.