Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Orchestra bound for prime Proms slot at Royal Albert Hall

An audience of 11,000 enjoyed the BBC Proms at Titanic Slipways in 2016
An audience of 11,000 enjoyed the BBC Proms at Titanic Slipways in 2016
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

The Ulster Orchestra under its dynamic music director Rafael Payare will take its place among some of the world's top ensembles in this year's Henry Wood BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The concert, which will feature Beethoven and Shostakovich's First Symphonies, will take place on Sunday, August 18.

It will also be broadcast live all over the world by BBC Radio 3.

The other works in the concert will include the Proms premiere of Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto, played by Mariam Batsashvili.

There will also be a short commissioned work titled Fairytale Poem by the composer Sofia Gubaidulina.

This popular programme is likely to attract a capacity audience to the voluminous Royal Albert Hall.

And an added attraction will be the appearance of Payare, who is fast gaining a reputation in London and other top musical cities as a rising star.

He is a regular guest conductor of both the Vienna and Chicago Orchestras, which are regarded as two of the finest in the world.

The Ulster Orchestra appeared at the Proms two years ago under the baton of Payare, who this year relinquishes his eight-year post to become principal conductor of the San Diego Symphony.

It is generally recognised that Venezuelan Payare is one of the very top conductors in the orchestra's history. It was established in 1966 with 37 members, and enlarged to over 55 in 1980-81.

Payare and the Ulster Orchestra have formed a close bond during the conductor's tenure here.

In a recent concert they played music by Richard Strauss and Dmitry Shostakovich at a high technical level, which would have been impossible only a few years ago.

Earlier this year the orchestra was augmented to 100 players - with musicians in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Britain - to perform the massive Fourth Symphony by Shostakovich, which had never before been played here.

Referring to his impending departure, Payare said: "I feel grateful for being part of this amazing journey, and Northern Ireland will remain in my heart forever.

"I look forward to returning here in future seasons."

The Ulster Orchestra's first Proms appearance was in 1985, and it has performed at the annual classical programme roughly every two years since then.

The orchestra also made a series of highly acclaimed recordings which are still regularly played on Classic FM and on American public broadcasting services, where their music is heard by many expats living in the US.

The Ulster Orchestra also plays regularly on BBC national radio and is regarded as one of the finest regional orchestras in the British Isles.

During its history the orchestra has survived several financial crises, and its current season is regarded as its best ever in musical terms as it continues to attract large audiences to its evening and lunchtime concerts.

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