The closing concert of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s had a sparse enough audience despite having some of the best music in the classical repertoire.
The organisers could have filled the Waterfront Hall with the safer fare (for Belfast) of Mozart, Tchaikovsky or Brahms, and it took courage to programme Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, but those who attended the concert were richly rewarded.
The immediate success of the Richard Strauss symphonic poem Don Juan established him as the natural successor to Wagner, and the exuberance of the main theme made an electrifying start to the concert.
The distinguished Polish conductor Antoni Wit was totally in charge of this powerful performance of music rarely heard in Belfast, which will linger long in the memory. Antoni Wit is also a Mahler expert, and a top conductor is needed for any Mahler symphony where so much is happening, and not least the celebrated Fifth.
Wit marshalled the considerable forces at his disposal to guide the orchestra through the complexities of the final movement to bring the symphony to a triumphant conclusion, which was also a fitting flourish to the end of another successful Belfast Festival at Queen’s.