Don Quixote by Ulster Orchestra

Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, like a matador in the bullring, lead and tamed the Ulster Orchestra, accompanied by cellist Alisa Weilerstein during their performance of Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote at a packed Guildhall on Derry on Thursday night.

The performance was the start of a season of performances by the Ulster Orchestra which will take it to various venues and audiences throughout Northern Ireland in order to extend its reach.

The orchestral piece is no less dramatic than it’s literary equivalent as wind and brass and string sections of the orchestra are brought together with flair and passion; each one visually appreciated by Weilerstein before she has to play her part. When she does there’s a bullishness and yet a style and grace that pulls the audience in and draws their attention to every note. This leading up to a dramatic climax of the piece.

In the second half of the concert, Shostakovich’s tenth symphony was given up as an offering, a piece often argued to be about Stalin himself given that Shostakovich was often hampered by Stalin’s censorship laws. However, given that both of them died on exactly the same day we will never know.

If this is only the beginning of the Ulster Orchestra’s season then there certainly is a lot of promise in what is offered ahead. However, given that among the audience were a sizeable amount of the elderly and disabled, if the Ulster Orchestra really does want to create as diverse an audience as possible, then perhaps it could be suggested that they review their ticket pricing structure. The only concession that seemed to be available was for under 16 and their attendance was sparse at best!

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