Conductor Rita Paczian and her Bach Musica NZ laid out a splendid orchestral welcome mat for Bradley Wood in Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto.
The young pianist responded with a sharply characterised performance. Without ever compromising the all-important clarity of Beethoven's opening Allegro, Wood hinted at a restlessness under the surface, culminating in a highly dramatic cadenza.
In the slow movement, he weighed every chord, savouring each sonority, with his rippling arpeggio work hinting at an exquisite Debussy encore yet to come.
After interval, the mesmerising weave of Alison Dunlop's oboe and Mark Bennett's violin, launching Bach's Cantata BWV 21, suggested we were in for some fine music-making.
Almost immediately, Dunlop contributed a hypnotic obbligato against a gloriously voiced aria from Emma Roxburgh.
The soprano also provided the highlight of the evening: a duet with Jonathan Eyers, in which she sang the part of a soul pleading with the young baritone's Jesus. This was riveting (and slightly surreal), executed with enviable naturalness, warmth and flow.
Lachlan Craig's two tenor arias, one starkly accompanied by just cello and chamber organ, were neatly delivered and the final chorus, with its lusty choral singing and a trio of trumpets added to the mix, signed off the concert with all the splendour of the High Baroque.
What: Bach Musica NZ
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart