Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Maestro Barry's massive challenge for finale

The acoustics of even a large marquee do not enhance orchestral sound, so Camerata Ireland started with a distinct disadvantage in the final concert of the Clandeboye Festival on Saturday.

Contending with such a limited and dead space, listeners unfortunately tend to focus on occasional sectional imbalance, ensemble problems and intonation sourness.

But the ear can adjust to the acoustic when there is sufficient interest in the music, which must always be the prime concern.

Maestro Barry Douglas guided his Camerata Ireland through these several challenges with two fine soloists to hand.

Andrés Díaz was technically at ease in Saint Saëns' dazzling first cello concerto and the violinist Graf Mourja was a persuasive interpreter in the rarely performed, though attractive, Reverie et Caprice by Berlioz.

Douglas is a pianist of international stature and outstanding capability.

I am not, however, an advocate of pianists directing the romantic repertoire from the keyboard; there are just too many notes for the soloist to deal with without attending to the needs of orchestral players' notes as well.

It's a massive challenge and I can only wonder why one would attempt it, because it seems to me it does not enhance the listeners' understanding of the music in any way.

Douglas held together Liszt's first piano concerto, directed from the keyboard, through sheer force of personality and pianistic ability, but it was an uneasy musical performance which I think the audience admired for the virtuosity of the feat.

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