Irish Times writers review a selection of recent events

Irish Timeswriters review a selection of recent events

Oman, RTÉ NSO/Maloney

NCH, Dublin

Applause redoubled when presenter Eileen Dunne congratulated soprano soloist Sandra Oman (right) on her new baby. No one could have guessed that it had been Oman’s first performance after barely a month’s maternity leave.


Her selections took in arias for two of Mozart's jilted women and Puccini's Mimi – all roles familiar to this firmly established artist. The Duchess Elena's bolero, Mercè, dilette amiche, from Verdi's I vespri siciliani, was thrown in too.

The Mozart items – Elvira's Ah! chi mi dice mai, from Don Giovanni and Despina's In uomini, in soldati, from Così fan tutte– were complementary studies in shrewishness.

The former, shorn of its asides from the Don and Leporello, had a fragmentary and somewhat martial feel. In both, however, Oman conjured up all the requisite spite without concession to focus or fruitiness of tone.

Mimi and Musetta, the principal soprano roles of Puccini's La bohème, are so sharply contrasted that few singers tackle both. Oman does, however, and it would be hard to say which one suits her better. On this occasion, her choice of Mi chiamano Mimiwas endorsed not so much by her characterisation of the demure seamstress as by a full-bodied zenith against which the orchestra had little need of holding back.

Taking their cue from Oman's contributions, the orchestra included the overtures to Don Giovanniand I vespri siciliani. Additionally (and for the third year running in an RTÉ summer concert), there was the ballet music from Gounod's Faust– not merely the announced excerpts, but all seven movements.

This concert was one of many return visits by Gavin Maloney, who was assistant conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2007. The naturalness of his baton technique, and his readiness to seize each musical moment in the right way, continue to impress. ANDREW JOHNSTONE

Utsav Lal (piano)

NCH John Field Room, Dublin

Delhi-born Dublin resident Utsav Lal, who turned 17 last month, has been making a name for himself as the pianist who plays Indian music on the piano.

He started piano at seven, has been giving concerts since 2003, and has followed up studies in India by becoming a pupil of Pádhraic Ó Cuinneagáin in Dublin, where he has lived since 2007.

He is also studying Hindustani music under violinist Sharat Srivastavji, and jazz with Argentinian pianist Germán Lema.

Jazz didn’t feature explicitly in this Piano Plays Classical Ragas concert at the John Field Room, but he was joined on stage by musicians from different traditions, both flautists.

He played separate musical numbers with Philip Horan (playing the Japanese shakuhachi), and traditional Irish musician Dave Sheridan. He also had two Indian musical partners, both percussionists, Rohan Kapadia on tabla and CS Koushik on the double-headed mridangam.

The programme offered a full version of Raga Bihag, a shorter performance of Raga Bageshwari, the two collaborations with flute, and “a woven medley of light Indian classical compositions”.

So what does an Indian-trained Indian musician playing Indian music on a Steinway concert grand actually sound like?

Well, rather better than you might expect, if not quite as good as you might wish for. The piano can follow the scales and rhythmic patterns of the great Indian tradition.

But the note-bending and sliding, which are such a feature of Indian music, whether sung or instrumental, and where some of the finest melodic subtleties seem to lie, can only be remotely suggested by a piano.

But, make no mistake about it, Lal is a fleet-fingered performer whose best moments can be both highly evocative and dazzling, and his Indian partners brewed up some impressive rhythmic storms.

Among the two flute partnerships, it was the cumulative power of the build-up with Dave Sheridan which sounded best. MICHAEL DERVAN