At the age of 13, says Robin Browning, he would steal his mother’s knitting needles and ‘hack my way along’ to a famous Berlin recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
‘The needles were bent when I gave them back,’ he smiles. ‘That is the single piece of music that started me on the long, rocky road to being a conductor.’
I would like to bring the orchestra as close to the audience as possible, getting the strings all on the same level so they can interplay.Robin Browning
Robin, 46, tells the tale to show that Beethoven’s concerto, still one of his favourites for any instrument, is a natural choice for his first Havant Chamber Orchestra concert since his appointment as musical director was confirmed.
The concert at Ferneham Hall, Fareham, tomorrow (7.30pm), completes his two seasons as guest conductor after Peter Craddock’s retirement because of ill-health. Now Robin aims to make more people realise the HCO is ‘a little jewel’, describing it as a fleet-footed professional group that puts on stunning performances on very little rehearsal.
Robin, who teaches conducting at Southampton University’s specialist music department and has worked with major international ensembles, admits Ferneham Hall is ‘difficult to sell’ but adds: ‘You have to be creative.
‘I would like to bring the orchestra as close to the audience as possible, getting the strings all on the same level so they can interplay. One has to encourage them to make a strong, big sound sometimes. They can do elegance but it’s not going to carry clearly in that hall.’
On repertoire, he wants ‘a backbone of mainstream classical symphonies’ and to couple that with ‘some really great soloists, a lot of whom will be young,’ he says. ‘There are fabulous soloists around, and with people like that you get a lot of ‘‘bang” for your money.
‘We have a star international guitarist, Craig Ogden, coming next season although you can’t do that every time. But I would like to see what we could do about commissioning a new work, perhaps with sponsorship – as long as it’s partnered with something attractive to audiences.
‘But it depends on funding and how well we can inspire people to come with us on our journey. We have to help audiences to trust us.’
Saturday’s/next week’s programme also includes Weber’s ‘flamboyant’ Preciosa Overture and Schubert’s Symphony No 2. The concerto will be played by Savitri Grier. Robin says: ‘She’s superb, with a freshness, vibrancy, wit and intelligence, with nothing overtly for show.’
Tickets cost £20 to £8 (concessions available) from Ferneham Hall on (01329) 231942 or fernehamhall.co.uk