St Anne's perfect venue for music
In the second concert of the Ulster Orchestra's 2007-2008 season in St Anne's Cathedral on Friday night, the theme 'music in time and space' was continued.
Kenneth Montgomery conducted two very contrasting works and both sounded great in the vast space and large acoustic of this magnificent building.
Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams was a strikingly beautiful opener. Scored for double string orchestra and string quartet, this atmospheric and melodic piece was given a detailed and delicious performance by the strings. The clever spatial seating arrangement gave the piece a physical depth which never once marred the tremendous sense of ensemble. The ecclesiastical character of the theme was almost spiritual as Montgomery allowed the exquisite string sonorities to ebb and flow as the phrases demanded, without any sense of exaggeration.
The very weighty Symphony no 5 in B flat major by Bruckner provided great contrast to the Vaughan Williams. Montgomery seemed to energise the players into giving this massive work an extremely enthusiastic performance. From the magical string opening to the loud brass ending, there was never any sense of weariness during 80 minutes. The wind section was equally impressive and Mark Robinson's timpani playing was responsive and precise. Each movement had direction with some lovely quiet moments and climaxes that were full of life. Mention must be made of Chris Blake's very sensitive and expressive oboe solo at the beginning of movement two.
This is the second concert of the season where the Ulster Orchestra has played exceptionally well and excelled in detail and precision. New Principal Conductor Kenneth Montgomery is certainly making the mark. The series continues in the Waterfront Hall next Friday.
Ruth McCartney / Irish News, 2/10/07