The Havant Symphony Orchestra made a welcome return to Oaklands School, whose warm and sympathetic acoustic always makes the music sound well.
They began with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutracker. This might have gained from a lighter touch and some quieter dynamics in the playing, though the trio of flutes was delightful, and the performance was lit up by the excellent harp solo of Anneke Hodnett in the Waltz of the Flowers.
Alexander Sitkovetsky proved an immensely assured violin soloist in Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, commanding the hall with magnificent tone and thoroughly deserving his standing ovation. Yet despite the excellent performance, this music once again seemed to add up to less than the sum of its parts.
After the interval came the Symphony No. 1 of Sibelius, in which conductor Jonathan Butcher conjured a well-shaped interpretation from an orchestra at the top of its form.
With its broad sweep, the music’s romantic melodic commitment finds the composer at his most intensely expressive and rhetorical.
The strings were full-toned, the horns were suitably heroic, the clarinettist Gordon Egerton distinguished himself in his opening solo, and above all the timpanist Sara Woods always added something special to the symphonic drama.