Review: A festive delight lacking in Christmas flair
Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Hall, Belfast
The Ulster Orchestra lunch-time concert in the Ulster Hall yesterday attracted a jam-packed audience, and under the baton of guest conductor Christoph Altstaedt it played a wide range of music which was not necessarily confined to the traditional Christmas musical menu.
Perhaps the clue lay in the subtle title of the concert as a Festive Box of Delights, which included Debussy's Children's Corner.
This is a musical picture box for children, and while some of the early pieces were less familiar, there was a rousingly jolly finale.
There was little Yuletide atmosphere in Richard Strauss' Traumerei am Kamin from his Intermezzo, but this soaringly lyrical music was beautifully judged.
The Christmas spirit came into its own with excerpts from Tchaikovsky's wonderful Nutcracker Suite, and as the large audience collectively purred in delight at this seasonal lollipop, the only thing missing was the Sugar Plum Fairy herself gliding across the stage.
Special mention is due to the harpist Rita Schindler, though the lady beside me asked why all harpists nowadays seem to be female - to which I have no answer.
Finally, some advice to the management of the Orchestra and the Ulster Hall. If a conductor as delightful as Maestro Altstaedt decides to address the audience, please supply a microphone, as he could hardly be heard from the back row of the balcony. Also, the inside of the drearily bare Ulster Hall could do with at least one Christmas Tree on the stage. No doubt there will be more seasonal atmosphere at the Ulster Orchestra's Magic of Christmas concert in the Waterfront Hall tomorrow at 7.45pm.