untitled (2)The Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Haydn in Paris at The RDS, Thursday 6th March 2014.

There’s always something comforting about the performance of a chamber orchestra, and when the Irish Chamber Orchestra conductor Gabor Tákacs-Nagy announced that if Haydn were here he’d love to bring him for a drink afterwards, the largely youthful crowd were welcomed into the realm of intimacy that only this sort of music allows. Saying this, with a world premiere amongst the evening’s programme, a rousing energy filled the RDS Concert Hall for this the ICO’s first appearance here in 2014.

If a sense of familiarity is not present from before the orchestra took its place, it resonated from the opening notes of Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 in G Minor. Nicknamed ‘The Hen’, this work is typical of its time with strong contrasts throughout rich string sections. Believed to be Haydn’s most comical piece,  the ICO thrive off the upbeat Minuet, the third movement, as elements of the tune travel through each section.

No doubt the premiere of Sholdice’s composition is the highlight for most. With two movements ‘Concerto for Piano and Orchestra‘ ould appear on paper not to break any boundaries. However, the new work distances itself from all expectations from the onset with its haunting opening. Soft Night, the first movement, sees Sholdice recreate Paris at dusk. By formulating a cloud of sound before breaking it with shrieking strings, he captures the sense of cycle which is key to this depiction. As the movement develops, warmer colours resonate from the ICO but at no point does a sense of security reach the stalls. If movement one is inspired by the Parisian dust, Alap, the second movement must represent light. The repetitive, melodic piano is just one element that conveys an excitement brewing. As the plucked strings work with the piano to expand this, the sound then unwinds only to return again like a phoenix from the ashes. Throughout, there is an overwhelming  element of hope and the entire work is rich in emotion. McHale‘s contribution added to the experience and such is his skill as a performer that at no point did his reputation outshine this new work.

Overture To Armida
, with its contrasting dynamics fills the hall with lush musical moments. The dramatic features of Armida shine through the entirety of the overture particularly during the forte sections with lighter moments giving the woodwind a chance to flourish. Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor brings the evening to a close. The second movement shows off the ICO’s capability as performers with the more challenging sections and constant mood changes.

Overall, the ICO’s return to the RDS for 2014 was a success. As an orchestra they showcase the extent of their talents throughout. The ease and capability with which they tackled the pieces tonight allows these great works to be the focus of the evening, with a wonderful warmth of approach allowing Sholdice’s latest work captivate each audience member. Tonight was truly a success and for those here to witness it, the evening is sure to be but one of their musical highlights for 2014.

Conductor:  Gabor Tákacs-Nagy

Soloist: Michael McHale (Piano)


Haydn – Symphony No. 83 in G Minor

Garrett Sholdice – Piano Overture

Haydn – Overture Armida

Verdi – String Quartet in E Minor