Howard Shelley, the acclaimed conductor and pianist, has been performing with the Ulster Orchestra for more than 30 years, and his Friday concert in a packed Ulster Hall was appropriately the Belfast venue of his world tour to celebrate his 70th birthday.
Shelley is as energetic as ever at 70, and this gifted musician shared his infectious enthusiasm not only in a pre-concert talk but also in his mini 'teach-in' about Mozart's piano concertos before performing and conducting the composer's 25th from the keyboard.
Shelley was in command throughout as he guided the Ulster Orchestra through this delightful piece with its familiar finale.
This was preceded by Weber's overture Euryanthe which was impressive enough, but a sharp contrast to the particular magic of Mozart.
The second half was devoted to Brahm's mighty First Symphony, which was composed in the shadow of Beethoven. The opening movement lacked balance with the thunderous brass and percussion almost drowning out the strings, but the Brahmsian balance was achieved in the second movement and in the monumental finale in which the composer underlined for all time that this masterpiece was not Beethoven's 'Tenth' but very clearly Brahms' 'First'.