Belfast Telegraph

Audience entranced by Ulster Orchestra's French musical adventure

Ulster Orchestra Ulster Hall, Belfast

By Alf McCreary

The Ulster Orchestra continued its successful season in a packed Ulster Hall on Friday with some remarkable French music that has been rarely heard here.

Following a lively start with Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the orchestra, under its dynamic music director Rafael Payare, combined with the world-class cellist Alisa Weilerstein in a deeply-felt performance of Dutilleux's A Whole World Distant, which was inspired by the poetry of Baudelaire.

This important 20th century piece was written for the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and was performed superbly by Weilerstein, who played for Rostropovich when she was only 22.

This complex Dutilleux piece was perhaps somewhat inaccessible for a mainstream classical audience, but the soloist had total command, with sharp yet sensitive backing from the orchestra.

Ms Weilerstein, who is Payare's wife, finished with a memorable Bach encore.

Debussy's La Mer is an enigmatic composition, but Payare and the ensemble sketched in all the moods and power of the sea itself, culminating in a throbbingly powerful climax.

The concert ended with Ravel's La Valse.

It underlined all the tones of modern uncertainty compared to the elegance of the waltz-era of the Viennese court, which itself sank under the weight of history.

This was an excellent concert based on clever programming, and the warm-hearted audience stayed with it right to the end of this French musical adventure.

Belfast Telegraph


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