Belfast Telegraph

Audience are warmed up by symphony from Russia

Ulster Orchestra The Ulster Hall Review by Alf McCreary

While the chill winds all the way from Russia swept past the Ulster Hall this week, the music of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was given a warm welcome inside this beautiful building.

A feature of the successful season of lunchtime concerts is the variety on offer, and this week the music of the Irish composer Sir Hamilton Harty was also on the bill.

Harty's "A Comedy Overture" dates from 1906, and the Ulster Orchestra, and its music director Rafael Payare, brought their considerable musical talents to showcase the best of this music, which is lyrically impressive with more than a hint of jaunty melodies.

The music dates from a time when the young Harty was becoming a musical power in the land, and it retains its charm some 112 years later.

The teenage Shostakovich wrote his First Symphony in 1924 as a challenge from his Conservatoire teachers, and produced an impressive and mature work for one so young.

Unlike the youthful Prokoviev, who wrote his deceptively light but remarkable Classical Symphony also at an early age, this First Symphony by Shostakovich is altogether more heavyweight, and was an unforgettable visiting card from a young man who went on to be one of the greatest composers in Russian and world music history.

Payare's clear reading of this First Symphony and the fine playing by the Ulster Orchestra did much to warm a cold winter afternoon in Belfast.

Maestro Payare will feature Brahm's Symphony No 2 with pieces by Liszt and Wagner in the Ulster Hall evening concert at 7.45pm on March 9.

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