An evening rehearsal with Portsmouth Philharmonic is enough to convince anyone that this ensemble’s concerts are worth going to. They’re a hard-working bunch. Not a second is wasted during their two-hour practice sessions. Musical director, Hugh Carpenter, a man gripped by attention to detail, does not let a dodgy flat or sharp pass without putting it right. So the ensemble is moving meticulously towards its next performance at the Church of the Resurrection in Drayton. The concert is scheduled to start at 3.00pm on Sunday 4 March. Never lacking in ambition, this orchestra’s concert programme is chock full of musical gems.
Johannes Brahms’ Academic Overture is a treat. Having refused an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University in 1877 because he didn’t fancy travelling to England, that old joker, Brahms rubbed salt into the wound by accepting an honorary degree from the University of Breslau and writing this work for it in 1880. However, hidden in the glorious, joyful music are snatches of risky student drinking songs. That didn’t go down too well with of learned professors. In rehearsal, Portsmouth Philharmonic is playing this with absolute gusto.
Franz Schubert’s Symphony No 8, the Unfinished, is not to be missed either. In 1822 Schubert wrote only two movements. After setting it aside for a bit, he sent it to his friend Anselm Huttenbrenner. Huttenbrenner stuffed it in a drawer and didn’t pass it on to a conductor in Vienna till 1865. Complete or not, some would consider this to be up among one of Schubert’s finest works. Several years ago the orchestra played this number. Now it’s sounding better than ever.
Lovers of Baroque music will enjoy Johan Sebastian Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. The Orchestra’s leader Colin Wilkins and first desk violinist Trudy McNiven will play the slow movement of this lovely work. With minimal backing from the rest of the strings, the basic theme is interwoven and passed seamlessly back and forth between the lead two instruments. It’s far from easy to get both the violins to sound like echoes of each other but, no doubt, Colin and Trudy will pull this off with their usual mastery.
Also on the bill is Karl Jenkins’ Palladio. With its insistent, rhythmic beat creating mounting excitement, it’s a musical lollipop if ever there was one.
The wind section of the orchestra will be given its moment of glory when it plays Carl Maria Frederick Ernst von Weber’s Concertino for oboe and winds. This features Wendy Carpenter, the conductor’s wife. A very accomplished oboist, Wendy also plays in the Charity Symphony Orchestra and the renowned Chichester Orchestra. Doubtless, the work is in experienced, safe hands.
This concert is really shaping up to be something special. For a paltry £5, which goes to the Rheumatology Department of QA Hospital, it certainly is value for money.