Nareh by Julia WeselyNareh Arghamanyan and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra at the National concert Hall, Friday 28th February.

From the Danse Macabre to ‘Dream of a Witches’ Sabbeth’, tonight’s programme at the National Concert Hall  is far darker than most, and a real challenge is set for conductor Patrik Ringborg to draw what he can from the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

In Saint-Saens‘ Danse Macabre the orchestra evokes an exquisite balance with impressive gauging of dynamics for an epic build. Ringborg’s subtle gestures lead the ensemble technically while he leaves the musicians to give the music their own emotive expression. The result is a beautifully controlled tone from the brass and impeccably judged use of vibrato from the violin soloist, Helena Wood.

Soloist Nareh Arghamanyan joins the orchestra on stage for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2 in A. Her ease with the music is immediately apparent with her eloquent entry into the piece. Technically exact, her performance shows an intuitive connection to the music of Liszt. She passionately commits to the work, ranging from deep and sonorous beauty, to a moving darkness. During the powerful march version of the main theme the full ensemble comes into its own, orchestra connecting with Arghamanyan in style and colour in a way that was missing during the quieter passages. Here, however, the orchestra sometimes slightly overpowers the pianist while she attempts to draw listeners in with pianissimo delicacy.

Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz completes the evening of darkness. The Leaving Certificate students present give up their giggling as they prepare to finally hear one of their set works live, as it is meant to be experienced. The first movement is somewhat lacking in passion, but serves as good contrast as the piece develops and becomes more fervent. ‘A Ball’ is far more engaging, with a flair that was missing from the opening, helped by the addition of the harps. ‘A Country Scene’ opens with a dazzling performance from the cor anglais and offstage oboe, a subtlety which gets blown away by the brass in ‘The March to the Scaffold’. Pedals from the bass trombone and the bassoon chorus are definite highlights of the night. The piece comes to a close in ‘Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath’ with walls of string and brass broken by quicksilver flashes from the woodwind and an exquisitely sweet dies irae from the tubas.

While the night fails to reach the depth the music has potential for, Ringborg shows the technical proficiency of the orchestra which Arghamanyan highlights and embellishes. Hopefully the new audience will come back after what was clearly an enjoyable evening for them, even if their hearing might not be what it was thanks to the brass finale.


Conductor: Patrik Ringborg

Soloist: Nareh Arghamanyan


Saint-Saens – Danse Macabre

Liszt – Piano Concerto No.2 in A


Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

Photo credit to Julia Wesely