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Review: Returning maestro gets the mood music right

Ulster Orchestra at the Ulster Hall

By Alf McCreary

Published 04/05/2015

JoAnne Falletta conducts the Ulster Orchestra
JoAnne Falletta conducts the Ulster Orchestra

The former principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta, made a welcome return to the podium for an Ulster Hall concert that opened with Mussorgsky's charming Down On The Moscow River cameo.

The main feature was The Protecting Veil by Sir John Tavener.

He came to major public attention when his Song For Athene was played at Diana, Princess of Wales' funeral.

Tavener travelled far theologically from his English Presbyterian background to join the Orthodox Church, and his music is deeply religious.

The Protecting Veil is essentially "mood" music in that the listener needs to be in a reflective mood to absorb its full effect.

The piece is essentially a concerto for cello, which is, in Tavener's words, "more like the voice of the mother of God".

Though the orchestra had an important supporting role, the main challenge lay with the cellist Guy Johnston.

He managed to convey superbly the almost mesmeric element to the music, particularly in one long unaccompanied line lasting for several minutes.

The emphasis then changed swiftly with Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, thought by some to be one of his less engaging works.

Maestro Falletta and the orchestra did their best to wade through the Scottish porridge of the first movement, and their lively scherzo and finale lifted the mood.

But the evening belonged to Guy Johnston and Sir John Tavener's music.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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