On paper it might look like just another Guildhall concert. In reality it promises to be the beginning of a brave new world of classical music-making in Portsmouth.
When the Goldner String Quartet from Australia plays music by English and Australian composers on Monday, April 29 (7.30pm), it will blaze a trail for a broader range of classical programming at the venue.
That concert will be followed by a recital by cellist Julian Lloyd Webber (May 9), and later by visits by orchestras from London and possibly abroad.
Andy Grays, chief executive officer of the Portsmouth Cultural Trust which has leased the Guildhall from the city council since last year, says he is determined to make the building a byword for quality performance across the musical spectrum.
He is advised on classical music by head of marketing Annelize de Beurs, a violinist who has played for Nelson Mandela in South Africa and worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And now the RPO has been booked for a concert of John Barry’s film music on October 3.
The London Symphony Orchestra, widely regarded as Britain’s finest, is provisionally engaged to perform in Portsmouth next year, and foreign orchestras may follow.
Andy stresses these moves are supported by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra whose Guildhall subscription series and community work in the city will continue.
Indeed the BSO, who will play a large-scale programme of music by Sibelius, Brahms and Dvorak with principal conductor Kirill Karabits next Friday (May 3), has been additionally booked for a concert of popular classics on July 7, including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with laser show and indoor fireworks.
Andy says: ‘We recognise the importance of the BSO and are encouraging them to be more innovative in their programming, to encourage audience development. They can offer something slightly different from the other orchestras we are bringing in.
‘I hope the choice of orchestras will interest more people. We’ll be careful not to over-do it but we are saying to the BSO this should be a win-win for all parties.’
Andy also wants to extend performance provision beyond the Guildhall – on to the steps and into the square ‘to re-invigorate this part of the city’.
Tickets for the Goldner Quartet cost £15 and tickets for the BSO cost £14 to £24 from the Portsmouth Guildhall on (023) 9282 4355 or go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.