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Review: Piano maestro Barry Douglas in fine form to provide a fitting finale to festival


Pianist, composer and conductor Barry Douglas

Pianist, composer and conductor Barry Douglas

Pianist, composer and conductor Barry Douglas

The Ulster Orchestra brought the curtain down last night on Belfast Festival's classical programme, a strand largely borrowed from their own autumn schedule, and that of Belfast Music Society.

Barry Douglas was the soloist in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, which he played with an enthralling mix of chiselled brilliance and melting lyricism.

Sustained applause brought a short encore by Brahms, shaped and shaded with exquisite sensitivity.

Before the Beethoven was a welcome chance to hear Northern Irish composer Simon Mawhinney's elemental tone-poem The Pot of Pulgarve, inspired by a glacial hollow on Slieve Commedagh, Co Down.

The concert ended with another work where primal forces and emotions surge powerfully, Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. Conductor Rafael Payare elicited an intense, at times electrifying performance, galvanising the players with his whippy, athletic podium presence.

Payare wants to conduct all of the Tchaikovsky symphonies in Belfast, but it's a cycle which may never be completed.

Unless the financial and managerial stability it lacks at present is urgently forthcoming, the Ulster Orchestra may shortly cease to operate.

Are we really to be stripped of evenings as exciting and inspirational as this one?

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph