Last night's concert in Dundalk was finely realised and I think it was a fulfilling experience for everyone involved - both the performers and the less-than-capacity audience.
The Ulster Orchestra with soloist Emma Johnson (clarinet) presented a well-chosen program from the stage of the Town Hall theatre (An Táin Theatre) in Dundalk last night. This was the final leg of a tour which visited Iontas Theatre, Castlebayney, on 17 October 2007 and An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, on 22 October 2007.
The stage was big enough to cope with an orchestra which was approximately 30 strong at maximum. The horns and the wood-wind (where they figured) were placed at the back of the orchestra furthest away from the proscenium arch and I thought this was one of the reasons the sound seemed nicely balanced throughout. Although the orchestra presented music of very different styles there was no loud assault on the ear. The music making was appealing and there was a strong impression of competence i.e. the performers did not bite off more than they could chew. The conductor - who did not use a baton - seemed meticulous and particular but he also conveyed a reassuring air of masculinity and strength.
The performance of Emma Johnson was the highlight of the concert. Dressed in a body-hugging, sparkling, midnight blue, floor length gown, she created a mood of profound wonder and the night - as if presenting some fantastical but cogent dream of masonry, magic and wit. I know it was Mozart’s music but Emma breathed life into it like a young mother telling attentive children a marvellous, fascinating yarn of an unseen and barely knowable world.
Dag Wirén; Serenade for Strings
Mozart; Clarinet Concerto
Stravinsky; Dumbarton Oaks
Haydn; Symphony No 85, La Reine
Conductor; Niklas Willén
Soloist; Emma Johnson (clarinet)