Review: Echoes of Russia music to the ears
Prokofiev's first violin concerto was premiered in 1923 by an orchestral leader. So it was an appropriate reflection of this historical fact that Ioana Petcu-Colan, as associate leader of the Ulster Orchestra, was soloist in the same work yesterday.
Another Russian work, Borodin's In The Steppes Of Central Asia, began the concert. Conductor Robert Houlihan effectively used a series of almost imperceptible ritardandi to expand the landscape of the piece without getting lost in the detail. Sour tuning from the woodwind, however, was a blot now and again.
A shimmering, atmospheric opening was beautifully caught by soloist and orchestra in the Prokofiev concerto. Petcu-Colan's tone is rich without being bombastic and her fine technical abilities allowed her to play with the lyricism and melodic variants of the first movement before launching into the demanding exuberance of the second movement. Sometimes the excitement of the music was not quite edgy enough there, but the wonderful subtleties of the orchestration shone through nonetheless.
The finale again returns to the darker introversion of the opening and it seemed that the soloist was more in sympathy with this context of soft romanticism, allowing her violin to float magically above the orchestral foundations in what was a thoughtful and sensitive performance.
Debussy's summery Petite Suite, in Busser's lightly delicate and colourful orchestrations, gave the lie to the prevailing greyness outside the hall!