Ulster Orchestra: Douglas Plays The Emperor

Ulster Orchestra: Douglas Plays The Emperor

Friday, 27 May 2022, 7.30pm

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 Emperor
Walker Lyric for Strings
Shostakovich Symphony No. 9

Carlos Kalmar Conductor
Barry Douglas Piano

Legendary Northern Irish pianist Barry Douglas joins the Orchestra to perform Beethoven’s epic Piano Concerto No. 5. This work, along with the Violin Concerto performed by Francesca Dego on 8 April, are the two works that first fuse the composer’s approach to symphonic writing with a work for a virtuoso soloist to create something on a truly spectacular scale. Beethoven lays all his cards on the table with the grandest, most stirring piano concerto he ever wrote and Douglas, whose recording of the Concerto with Camerata Ireland garnered widespread critical acclaim, is the perfect hands in which to entrust this performance.

Shostakovich’s life and work was a perennial tightrope walk between writing the sort of work the Russian state expected from its composers and his own personal responses to what he saw around him. In 1945, as the Soviet army pushed into Germany, the expectation was that his next symphony would be monumental, victorious and patriotic, with a dedication to Stalin. But Shostakovich could not bring himself to do so and instead he produced his 9th Symphony, often referred to as his ‘Classical’, a playful, uplifting work with a chamber feel that was the polar opposite of expectations. While it earned him a second state denouncement, its studied neutrality stands as the sort of critique of grandstanding that allowed this canny composer a means of speaking his mind in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

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Published on 4 January 2022

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