Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Enchanting premiere by Barry Douglas

CLANDEBOYE FESTIVAL: BEETHOVEN GALA 1 Clandeboye Estate, Bangor

Barry Douglas combines his career as a  world-class  concert pianist with his role at the Clandeboye Festival
Barry Douglas combines his career as a world-class concert pianist with his role at the Clandeboye Festival

Last night's gala concert at Clandeboye included the world premiere of a piece by the festival's director and moving spirit Barry Douglas.

Chant For Columbanus was commissioned last year by North Down District Council to mark the 400th anniversary of Bangor being granted a town charter.

The work is built upon a folk-like melody immediately suggestive of a clear, open horizon, and the lapping rhythms of the ocean. There's delicate scoring for solo violin and cello, and lacings of plangent woodwind detail, as the music describes a gentle arc towards its peaceful conclusion. Douglas himself conducted a fine, atmospherically suggestive performance.

That sense of lyricism flowed over into the opening movement of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, directed by Douglas from the keyboard, at a generously expansive tempo. The Rondo finale was, by contrast, taken at a bracing clip, in a virile, sharply accented interpretation.

Douglas's ability to put his own artistry totally at the service of the composer was perfectly illustrated in the brief middle movement, which so many players make a regular meal of.

Beethoven's Fifth Concerto followed after the interval, in an account which mingled exuberance and tender emotion.

A word for first violinist Michael d'Arcy – his role in leading the orchestra was crucial in the absence of a bespoke conductor.

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