Payare on top form for his farewell concert in Belfast
Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Hall
Rafael Payare, the prodigiously-talented young music director of the Ulster Orchestra, bade a fond and memorable farewell to his loyal audiences and players during his last concert.
The performance of the iconic Fifth Symphony by Gustav Mahler to a packed Ulster Hall on Friday was one of the best concerts of the season.
Payare is one of the very finest conductors in the history of the Ulster Orchestra.
He was given a sustained standing ovation after directing this difficult but rewarding work which the Ulster Orchestra performed so well, and it was a testimony to the advances which it has made since Payare took over in 2014.
Every aspect of this Mahler Symphony was beautifully shaped, including the famous Adagietto and the thrilling climax, in a series of excellent virtuoso and ensemble performances from all sections of the orchestra.
Payare is famed for his intense work at rehearsals and for his innate skill, which has taken him to such heights already in conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and many other top international ensembles.
The Belfast audiences and supporters will wish him well as he departs for the San Diego Symphony as its new music director.
In the first section on Friday the American-Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan gave a thrilling performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 20, followed by a generous encore of JSBach's Sheep May Safely Graze, which - the pianist explained at the interval - he had arranged himself.
This was a most memorable farewell to Payare in Belfast, but he will conduct the Ulster Orchestra for one last time this year in the London Proms on August 18.