Belfast Telegraph

Curtain down on Ulster Orchestra conductor's reign following an evening of celebration

By Alf McCreary

The final evening performance this season by the Ulster Orchestra under the baton of outgoing principal conductor JoAnn Falletta in a packed Ulster Hall was as much an occasion as a concert.

She was applauded warmly by the large audience, and chairman Sir George Bain paid a tribute to her achievements with the orchestra. Ms Falletta in reply spoke equally warmly about her great affection and respect for the players and the audience, whom she urged to "cherish" their fine orchestra.

Ms Falletta, who is based in New York, has brought much American music into the orchestra's repertoire, and the first item in Friday's programme was a full-blooded performance of Bernstein's jazzy suite of symphonic dances from West Side Story.

The rhythm was infectious and the co-ordination between all sections was impressive, while the haunting finale brought out the deep tragedy at the heart of this musical showpiece, based on Romeo And Juliet.

There was rhythm aplenty in Ravel's jazzy Piano Concerto in G, which was played superbly by the Italian soloist Fabio Bidini, whose warm charisma and technical brilliance drew sustained and deserved applause. Hopefully he will be invited back regularly.

The concert ended with another bravura performance, this time of Rachmaninov's final swan-song and masterpiece, the Symphonic Dances, which ended an evening of historic and memorable music-making.

Four stars

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