What do great classical musicians Rachmaninov, Solomon, Kreisler, Horowitz, Heifetz, and Casals all have in common? They chose to perform in Hastings in its pre-second world war heyday. Here in Rye we are rightly proud of our arts and jazz festivals, of our scallop week, The Bridgepoint Ensemble concerts and all the other entertainments we offer but it is worth remembering that just a short bus-trip away, Hastings is once more a destination of choice for the world-class instrumentalists, ensembles and orchestras it hosts at its venues.
On Saturday, March 4, the gala concert showcasing two of the Hastings International Piano Concerto competition prize winners took place at the White Rock Theatre. The auditorium was packed by an enthusiastic audience clearly delighted and transported by the playing of Shunta Morimoto (first prize winner), Marianna Sherling (third prize winner) and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted with verve and panache by Rory Macdonald.
Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto calls for real rapport between soloist and orchestra as they play question and answer with each other, and Morimoto and the RPO achieved this from the very first exchange at the beginning of the piece, maintaining it throughout. Rachmaninov’s dazzling set of variations, ‘Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini’, enabled Sherling to exhibit both her technical mastery and sensitivity, and she brought clarity to even the most demanding passage work. Again, the orchestra under Macdonald proved the nimblest of musical dance partners.
As if these two spectacular piano works were not enough, the RPO also brought thrilling energy, wonderful precision and red-blooded passion to its accounts of Tchaikovsky’s fantasy overture ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Dvorak’s ‘Carnival Overture’. It was clever, and utterly fitting, that the final encore brought both pianists together for a four-handed Rachmaninov waltz which was greeted with resounding applause.
There is nothing like live music; however good a recording may be, the experience of being in a hall with several hundred other concert-goers listening to such fine musicians and to two young stars at the beginning of their careers was tremendous. And all this not after a trek up to London but just a few miles down the road from Rye: brilliant.
Image Credits: Peter Mould .