Female Composer Series, Pinchas Zukerman, Esther: The best classical music gigs this week

Handel’s Esther is a real rarity in Ireland and hasn’t been performed here in more than 100 years

Saturday, March 30th


NCH, Dublin 8pm €40-€80 nch.ie

For the second time in eight days the National Concert Hall's International Concert Series offers an orchestral concert that doubles up its soloist and conductor. This time it's the versatile Pinchas Zukerman, who made his New York debut as a violinist at the age of 15 in 1963 and started his conducting career seven years later. He has been principal guest conductor with London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra since 2009. His Dublin programme with the orchestra opens with Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, ends with Elgar's Enigma Variations, and in between features Zukerman as soloist in Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto.

Thursday, April 4th



NCH Kevin Barry Recital Room 7.30pm €17.50 nch.ie It's not every day you get to hear four cello sonatas in a single evening. But that's exactly what's on offer in the National Concert Hall's Female Composer Series concert by the cello and piano duo of Miriam Roycroft and Lance Coburn. The works were composed over a 60-year period, from Louise Farrenc's Sonata in B flat, Op 46, of 1859 to Henriette Bosmans's Cello Sonata of 1919. Luise Adolpha Le Beau's Cello Sonata, Op. 17, dates from 1878, and the Cello Sonata, Op. 5, by Ethel Smyth, the best-known composer of the group, from 1887. The programme also includes a later set of piano pieces, the April Preludes written in 1937 by Vítezslava Kaprálová.

Friday, April 5th

ESTHER St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast 7.30pm £20/£18/£10/£5 sestinamusic.com; also Sat, Dublin Messiah gets all the Handelian glory in Ireland, because its world premiere took place in Dublin on April 13th, 1742. But earlier during Handel's time in Dublin, his fifth concert, on February 3rd, was advertised to include "An Oratorio called Esther, with Additions, and several Concertos on the Organ and Other Instruments." The advertisement continued, "N.B. It is humbly hoped that no Gentlemen or Ladies will take it ill, that none but Subscribers can be admitted, and that no Single Tickets will be delivered, or Money taken at the Door." Esther, Handel's first oratorio in English, was repeated in the composer's second Dublin subscription series. But it's now a real rarity in Ireland, so much so that I haven't been able to trace a performance here in more than 100 years. The performances in Belfast and Dublin, with the Irish Baroque Orchestra under Peter Whelan, have Anna Devin and Jorge Navarro Colorado as headline soloists, with the chorus and smaller roles taken by the singers of the Belfast choir Sestina.