In line with the Havant orchestras’ tradition of venturing off the beaten musical track, John Ireland’s piano concerto was a piquant centrepiece in the Oaklands hall’s warm yet clear acoustics.
Crisp brass playing distinguished the start, and extra numbers in the violins since the previous concert ensured the tone was as luxuriant as it needs to be in a score of some passion.
Soloist Viv McLean also caught Ireland’s emotional ebb and flow, most notably in the intense slow movement – the composer’s love letter to a female piano student.
Rachmaninov’s first symphony was conducted by Jonathan Butcher with a sure sense of when to press on and when to ease back, without ever distorting the musical line.
Conductor and orchestra seemed perfectly in tune through every swelling and easing of emotion, and individual playing in the woodwind and horns seemed to have grown in confidence again since the departure of key personnel – surely the result of Butcher’s encouraging manner.
The concert began with Brahms’s Tragic Overture, played with drama, energy and keen shading under the impressive Joseph Beckhelling, the orchestra’s Bob Harding Bursary holder.