Belfast Telegraph

Jazzing up great night of Nordic delights

Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Hall

By Alf McCreary

The Ulster Orchestra's long-term future remains uncertain, but the players are performing in every concert as if their musical lives depended upon it.

This was the case in the last of the Nordic Concerts in the Ulster Hall, which had music by Nielsen and Sibelius, and an extraordinary performance by the star clarinettist Emil Jonason.

The Neilsen's Saga Dream opening was charming, even quirky in parts, but a contrast to the clarinet concerto, The Erratic Dreams Of Mr Gronstedt, composed by the evening's guest conductor and acclaimed trombonist Christian Lindberg.

The music was as eccentric as its title, but the performance by virtuoso Jonason was outstanding, with superb backing from the Orchestra and Lindberg.

This concerto is "surreal", as David Byers' programme notes pointed out. Its jazz orientation is reminiscent of Gershwin, Bernstein and more, but it is thoroughly enjoyable. So too was Jonason's foot-stomping and jazzy encore Lucinda, all of which added up to one of the most memorable solo performances of the season.

The concert ended with a taut and crystal-clear performance of the Sibelius Second Symphony.

It had all the coolness of a Finnish winter, but also the lush warmth of great Romanticism, especially in the final movement which wound up to a mighty climax for the orchestra's successful Nordic Season.

Tomorrow night the orchestra and its Principal Conductor, the remarkable Rafael Payare, will perform a popular Symphonic Strings programme in Clonard Monastery.

The programme, including much-loved music by Mozart, Barber and Tchaikovsky and the Northern Ireland premiere of Penderecki's Sinfonietta for Strings, will be repeated in the Ulster Hall on Wednesday. Both concerts begin at 7.45pm.

Four stars

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