Van Steen brings out the very best in orchestra
Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Hall, Belfast
The principal guest conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, Jac van Steen, made a welcome return to the Ulster Hall on Friday with music by English composers.
Film buffs will have been aware of William Walton's iconic Suite from Henry V, written for Laurence Olivier's film of 1944 and popular ever since.
Under the baton of the vastly-experienced Van Steen, there was a haunting beauty in Egdon Heath, composed by Holst, better known for The Planets, and less so for his setting of the Christmas carol In The Deep Midwinter.
The Vaughan Williams' Concerto in A Minor for oboe and strings was played brilliantly by the young Spanish soloist Ramon Ortega Quero, who brought out the depth and wide-ranging beauty of the music, especially in the Minuet and Musette, and added an encore.
In his entertaining pre-concert talk, Van Steen said that players of British orchestras are so familiar with Elgar's Enigma Variations that they could play it standing on their heads, without rehearsing.
He also said that the real challenge for conductor, players and the audience is to take and experience this masterpiece beyond what we are familiar with.
Van Steen managed to do this, right to the stupendous finale with the mighty Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall in full flow.
The long applause from the capacity audience was enthusiastic, and rightly so.