Belfast Telegraph

Review: Maestro Rubikis wields baton with both verve and sensitivity

Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Hall

The Ulster Orchestra's lunchtime concert attracted a capacity audience yesterday, but the widely varied programme had only a marginal connection with Christmas.

The management of the hall (or the orchestra) might also have provided a Christmas tree on an otherwise bare stage, unlike the Belfast School of Music's splendid tree (and concert) at the same venue the night before.

The concert began with Tchaikovsky's Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, which was full of verve under the baton of impressive young Latvian guest conductor Ainars Rubikis.

The centrepiece of the hour-long concert was Respighi's musical vision of three paintings of Botticelli's celebrated Triptych.

Here there was indeed a Christmas focus on his Adoration of the Magi, and his wonderfully evocative version of the beautiful medieval hymn O Come Emmanuel, which is still universally popular.

The final piece consisted of the King Christian II suite by Jean Sibelius, rarely heard in Belfast.

The luscious offering of lyrical rather than Nordic-craggy Sibelius was played with great sensitivity under the direction of Rubikis. He is uncannily similar in style to the orchestra's outgoing music director Rafael Payare, who moves to the San Diego Symphony next year.

This was an enjoyable concert to lift the wet gloom of a December afternoon, and there will certainly be some truly Yuletide offerings in the Ulster Orchestra's special Waterfront programme The Magic Of Christmas next Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph

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