Preview: Mozart and Haydn at Ferneham Hall – all change!

Remember the days when classical orchestras filed onto the stage in sepulchral silence like mourners at a funeral? With a curt bow from the stern-faced conductor, the ensemble would play obscure, high-brow works. It was as though the audience didn’t even exist. And woe betides the luckless audience member who applauded in the wrong place.

Thankfully, times are changing. At last, amateur orchestras are waking up to the fact that classical music audiences are getting smaller and older. Something has to be done to welcome younger newcomers to the concert scene and foster their interest.

In the forefront of this change in mood and already making strides in the right direction is the Havant Chamber Orchestra. Their progressive conductor, Robin Browning, has already taken the initiative by bringing the orchestra off the stage and closer to the public. He feels that this gives a better connection between the players and those who have left the comfort of their own home to be there. Chamber orchestras probably began that way in the days of Haydn and Mozart – small ensembles in modestly sized rooms, cheek by jowl with the listeners. Figuratively speaking, the audience and players embraced one another.

In the Havant Chamber Orchestra’s next concert Robin intends to connect with the audience even more by prefacing each work with a few, well-chosen, words of introduction. Many will regard this as a welcome move but Robin is treading warily. Wisely, while breaking down barriers between orchestra and audience, he is anxious not to alienate the more traditional music lovers.

HCO’s concert at 7.30 pm on Saturday 13 October at Fernham Hall, Fareham is sure to be a delight especially for Mozart and Haydn fans.

First on the bill is the overture “Mitridate”. Mozart wrote it when he was just fourteen. It’s for an opera in three acts and was performed at the Milan carnival in December 1770.

Next on the programme is Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. It’s probably the finest work ever written for a solo instrument. There’s pleasure in every note of the opening allegro. The andante would sooth even the most troubled brow and the rondo finale is full of glee.

Widely recognised as one of the finest clarinet players in this region, Robert Blanken is the soloist of this famous work. He will also give a pre-concert talk about it at 6.30 pm.

There’s another overture on the menu too. Called “L’incontro improvviso”, it’s written by Haydn. The opera’s title translates as “the unexpected encounter” and it has a Turkish/Arabian setting. In those days the Austrians were fascinated by all things Middle Eastern.

To round off the evening Robin has included Mozart’s Symphony Number 36. Known as the “Linz”, it’s a favourite of his. Mozart composed it at breakneck speed. It took him four days to write it just to please the mayor of the small Austrian town of Linz, which he and his wife were visiting.

This promises to be a gem of a concert. Tickets can be obtained via or by telephoning 01329 231942.

Stuart Read

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