review details
 •  11 January 2007 - National Concert Hall, Dublin
Ulster Orchestra

Beethoven Prometheus Overture, Brahms 1st Piano Concerto (soloist Barry Douglas), Dvorák 6th Symphony

  • Thursday's Ulster Orchestra concert at the National Concert Hall was an occasion of sadness and jubilation. The sadness stemmed from the absence of János Fürst, founder of the first Irish Chamber Orchestra, original leader of the Ulster Orchestra and one-time member and later principal conductor of the RTÉSO, who died last week.

    Had he lived to conduct the concert, it would have been his first appearance in Dublin since he parted company with the RTÉSO back in 1989. Both the Dublin concert and its repeat in Belfast were dedicated to his memory.

    The jubilation stemmed from the character of the music-making secured by the evening's stand-in, no less a figure than the orchestra's principal conductor elect, Kenneth Montgomery.

    Montgomery, who takes a great interest in the developments of the period performance movement, is on one level like a whiz-kid lighting designer, who can use the subtle skills of illumination to swell or diminish the apparent size or contents of a room.

    The Ulster Orchestra is smaller in size and weight of tone than the RTÉSO, but Montgomery balanced his forces in such a way that he made this seem a consistent advantage.
    He brought extra strength to the wind and an equality of dialogue between the various sections of the orchestra in Beethoven's Prometheus Overture. This was Beethoven with bite.
    He allowed his players to thrust forcefully at Brahms's First Piano Concerto without overpowering the soloist, Barry Douglas. And the freedom of give-and-take in Dvorák's Sixth Symphony was a consistent and joyful pleasure in this most pleasurable of symphonies.

    Barry Douglas was both gentle and titanic in the Brahms, playing with an inspired freedom and managing to seem spiritually seamless with the orchestra, even when there were momentary lapses in co-ordination.

    Brahms's First Piano Concerto is a young composer's concerto, and Douglas played it with all the fiery temperament of youth, even though in a couple of years' time he will be twice the age Brahms was when he composed it.

    Michael Dervan, Irish Times, 13-01-07

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