Romance and a tribute to Schubert are themes for the online performance by the Ulster Orchestra, that is available to stream until May 16, featuring Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Dobrinka Tabakova’s Fantasy Homage to Schubert and Schubert’s Symphony Number Three.

Irish conductor Robert Houlihan leads the Ulster Orchestra in a programme that starts in one of orchestral music’s most personal moments, but which wakes up to finish in bustling Schubertian style.


The Siegfried Idyll was composed by Wagner as a birthday present for his beloved wife, Cosima. On her Christmas Eve birthday it was debuted with 15 players on the stairs and landing of the couple’s home. Compared to the popular ideas of Wagner and The Ring Cycle every melody in the piece had a private meaning for the couple and it is Wagner at his most intimate and tender.


Dobrinka Tabakova is a Bulgarian-born, London-based composer with a strong affinity to the music of Schubert; his work has been part of her childhood and she has regularly arranged his work as part of her studies.


Her Fantasy Homage to Schubert is a shimmering, suspenseful tone picture inspired by Schubert’s Phantasie in C major for violin and piano; tremulous strings create an uncertain mood before the opening of Schubert’s Phantasie soars out like the sun bursting from behind a cloud and leads the piece to a gentle, peaceful conclusion.

This homage leads us to Schubert himself and his 3rd Symphony, written in 1815 during the most productive year of his life.


As just an 18 year old he was still working as a schoolteacher and taking composition lessons twice a week with Antoni Salieri, but nonetheless he still also managed to compose over 200 works, including four operas, two masses, two symphonies and 145 songs! He started his Third Symphony on May 24 and finished it on June 19.


While it is short by Schubert’s standards and strongly inspired by Haydn, Mozart and even early Beethoven, it nonetheless is possible to hear his own distinctive voice and how he would develop his symphonic writing.
You can sign-up to the performance here.