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Rarely aired pieces make Valentine's Night concert extra special


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The Ulster Orchestra's Valentine's Night concert on Friday opened appropriately to a packed Ulster Hall with the Balcony Scene from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet, though the tenderness of Shakespeare's drama was a little lost by the ensemble's brass and percussion at times outplaying the strings. (stock photo)

The Ulster Orchestra's Valentine's Night concert on Friday opened appropriately to a packed Ulster Hall with the Balcony Scene from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet, though the tenderness of Shakespeare's drama was a little lost by the ensemble's brass and percussion at times outplaying the strings. (stock photo)

The Ulster Orchestra's Valentine's Night concert on Friday opened appropriately to a packed Ulster Hall with the Balcony Scene from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet, though the tenderness of Shakespeare's drama was a little lost by the ensemble's brass and percussion at times outplaying the strings. (stock photo)

The Ulster Orchestra's Valentine's Night concert on Friday opened appropriately to a packed Ulster Hall with the Balcony Scene from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet, though the tenderness of Shakespeare's drama was a little lost by the ensemble's brass and percussion at times outplaying the strings.

The main piece of the first half was the technically demanding Shostakovich Violin Concerto No1, played brilliantly by soloist Francesca Dego, the wife of the orchestra's new chief conductor Daniele Rustioni, who is also the principal conductor of Opera National de Lyon and principal conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana.

This Shostakovich concerto, rarely heard in Belfast, is challenging for any ensemble but the Ulster Orchestra rose to the challenge.

The second half was devoted to another rarely-heard piece, the Manfred Symphony by Tchaikovsky, based on Byron's elaborate poem of doomed passion which was partly the musical peg on which to nominate this as a Valentine's Concert.

The 'Manfred' is rarely played because of its complexity and its sheer length, and one can understand the composer's mixed views about it.

He initially considered it as one of his best, but later wanted to destroy it all except the opening movement.

Once again the orchestra rose to the great technical challenges, and it was great to hear the Mulholland Organ in full voice.

The real Valentine dimension to the concert came when maestro Daniele knelt to present his wife with a red rose, and they both stole the hearts of the audience by playing their encore of Danny Boy to a Fritz Kreisler arrangement when he played this in Belfast in 1936.

That is a sure way to win friends and influence people in this part of the world.

Incidentally, you can still watch and hear the legendary Kriesler play this on YouTube.

Full marks to the programmers for this imaginative choice of two such rare pieces, with a Valentine's flourish as a bonus.

Belfast Telegraph