Review: Petersfield Orchestra – Tchaikovsky’s Christmas Nutcracker

16 November, Petersfield Festival Hall

The major work in the Petersfield Orchestra’s November concert was Sibelius’s 1st Symphony, something of a challenge to rise to the demands of this major work from the orchestral repertoire – and the players acquitted themselves very well indeed. All the important melodies were stylishly pointed and brought out, especially that of the last movement. The second movement’s tempestuous central section featured exciting interjections from brass and percussion, whilst in the more relaxed moments there was ebb and flow which gave the music space to breathe. There was great rhythmic drive to the start of movement three and its motivic character well emphasised. The big melody of the last movement was sonorous, and the final climax and subsequent pizzicato chord ending was well judged.

This concert opened with the Symphonic Suite from Lieutenant Kijé by Prokofiev. It took a little while for the orchestra to settle into this piece, with the ensemble at the start of a couple of movements slightly unsteady. However, there was much to enjoy, especially in some very fine solo playing. The off-stage opening cornet solo, and later on-stage, in the 3rd movement was especially memorable. There’s was idiomatic saxophone playing too, particularly in the Romance, some nifty trombone moments in the Troika and a brief tuba solo in the final movement didn’t go unnoticed.

Lieutenant Kijé was followed by Suite No 1 from Tchaikowsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’. Here, neat playing in the overture was followed by characterful performances of the subsequent contrasting dance movements. The celeste solo in Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy was rhythmically played and delicately accompanied. The excitement of the Trepak contrasted well with lilting and expressive string playing in the Arabian Dance.

This very enjoyable concert was conducted with clarity and firm control by Robin Browning. It is not surprising that their concerts are always sold out. The orchestra’s next concert will be on March 21st 2024.

Ian Schofield

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