Havant Symphony Orchestra at Oaklands School, Waterlooville

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What a fine concert to begin the HSO’s 50th season!

It had a startlingly successful debut by Robert Hodge, another rewarding concerto performance by popular Fareham-based pianist Karen Kingsley, and a Sibelius second symphony in which conductor Peter Craddock’s classical control was matched with expressive freedom.

Mr Hodge, new holder of the Bob Harding Bursary for young conductors, took on the tricksy Beatrice And Benedict overture by Berlioz and made it seem easy. He paced the music admirably and generated rare precision with a clean, bright, French sound. His year with the orchestra promises to be fruitful indeed.

Ms Kingsley appeared to be feeling her way at times in the first movement of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto but eased impressively into the adagio and brought vivid mastery to the contrasts of the finale. The area is lucky to have ready access to her always heart-warming musicianship.

Mr Craddock, the orchestra’s founder, allowed no sluggishness in the Sibelius and treated the ‘rubato’ marking in the long slow movement with restraint. The result was a performance of dynamic power, with re-inforced strings shining, but one that that never sounded indecently driven.