A WEEK is a long time in music just as it is in politics, especially in the lives of orchestras whose schedules regularly present them with different conductors in successive weeks.
The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is a case in point. A few faces in the line-up may change from week to week, but sometimes the character of the orchestra shifts radically with the arrival of a new conductor.
Take Kenneth Montgomery, who conducted last Friday. He offered a slim, trim Beethoven, the like of which the orchestra has rarely undertaken in the past.
He clearly didn't see the composer as romping through the countryside with heavy accents in his Pastoral. The journey was swift, the step light, the manner often darting, perfectly judged to make the most of the extraordinary amount of repetition the work contains.
The approach was at once relaxed and invigorating, with incisive contributions from horns and trumpets, an almost airy flow to the brook in the second movement, an unusual, operatic feel to the storm in the fourth, and an appealing radiance in the thanksgiving of the finale.
The Pastoral was placed as the climax of an evening of perennial favourites. In the first half, Montgomery presented the two works by Sibelius in glorious sonorities, Finlandia all brassy menace and patriotically stirring hymns, Valse triste with dolefully stretched tread.
And he was an always accommodating partner to Russian pianist Boris Giltburg's unhackneyed account of the Grieg Piano Concerto.
It's over 10 years since Montgomery, currently the principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, last worked with the RTÉ NSO.
Here's hoping it won't be quite as long before he returns.
Michael Dervan, Irish Times