Ulster Orchestra: Stand-in earns deserved ovation for superb Sibelius
Ulster Orchestra: Ulster Hall, Belfast
Imagine being asked to play the technically-demanding Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Ulster Orchestra at very short notice, and then taking to the stage at a packed Ulster Hall only a few days later.
Rosanne Phillipens, standing in for the indisposed Esther Yoo, rose to the occasion superbly on Friday evening and deservedly received a prolonged standing ovation.
She in turn was so impressed by the reception that she ended her debut in Belfast with a Bach encore. No doubt she will be invited to return.
Her performance of the Sibelius concerto on a Stradivarius, which was particularly impressive in the familiar final movement, was partly due to the well-judged accompaniment by the Ulster Orchestra under the direction of fellow Dutch national Jac van Steen, the principal guest conductor, who is always welcome in Belfast.
The success of the concert owed much to the imaginative planning, which showed off the orchestra's range to the fullest extent.
This included a sensitive interpretation of Ralph Vaughan Williams' spellbinding Fantasia On A Theme Of Thomas Tallis, which was based on a mid-16th century psalm tune by the composer.
The second half of the concert featured Antonin Dvorak's lively Symphony No 7 in D Minor, with van Steen leading the ensemble exuberantly through the well-known third movement, and the thrilling finale, to sustained and well deserved applause.
The Ulster Orchestra is playing arguably better than at any time in its history, and the Friday concerts are drawing in highly appreciative crowds to the Ulster Hall.
As the orchestra continues its Christmas season with next weekend's performances of Handel's Messiah, it deserves its own best possible Christmas present with a guarantee of continued Government funding to maintain its excellent momentum.