Review: Orchestra hits highs and lows at weekend
It's a long way from Rachmaninov to the Rhinestone Cowboy, but the Ulster Orchestra made the journey in different ways at the weekend.
The main feature in Friday's concert in the packed Ulster Hall was Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, so popular that it would fill the hall alone.
The bonus was Barry Douglas, the Ulster pianist extraordinaire, who was greeted warmly even before he sat at the piano stool, and rightly received rapturous applause after his impressive performance.
The soloist was at times overpowered by a large orchestra in the first movement, but Estonian conductor Olari Elts achieved the right balance in the remaining movements of this all-time favourite and most romantic work.
The Rachmaninov was preceded by a short modern piece titled Cycling from the young Londonderry-born composer Patrick Brennan, who is making his name nationally. It was followed by the avant-garde Stravinsky's Petrushka.
The mood changed on Saturday when the Ulster Orchestra performed the I Love Country concert to a very different but enthusiastic audience in the Waterfront Hall.
The first half, under the direction of John Rigby with vocals by the four-person Capital Voices, covered all the classics from Willie Nelson to Glen Campbell and his Rhinestone Cowboy, but the second half was more loud vocals than orchestra.
It was a brave experiment but country music needs only limited backing, and Saturday's concert was partly a waste of a good orchestra, with some players reduced to the role of spectators for too long.