Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's first Town Hall concert may be a month away, but this year's season is unofficially launched tomorrow in the two Finale Concerts of the orchestra's Lion Foundation Summer School.

More than 70 musicians have travelled from as far afield as Oamaru to sit alongside APO players in the traditional Sunday morning and afternoon concerts at St Cuthbert's College, separated by a barbecue lunch.

While Christchurch conductor Tom Woods will work with the senior Fellowship Orchestra over four intensive days to meet the challenges of Rachmaninov's The Isle of the Dead, Miranda Adams and her Junior Orchestra tackle Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto with Lawrence Wong, winner of last year's Ronisch Auckland Secondary Schools Piano Competition.

The casting coup must be the return of oboist Gordon Hunt, who not only premieres a new Edwin Carr Concerto but, earlier in the day, duets in an Albinoni Double Concerto with the talented young Thomas Hutchinson.

Hunt's CV runs from holding principal oboe posts with top-class British and European orchestras to an illustrious solo career with many prestigious recordings on the Swedish BIS label. He may be London-born but tells me he is "three-quarters Kiwi" with a passport to prove it. (His parents both hail from this country.)

When we talk favourite oboe concertos, Hunt chooses the Richard Strauss which he famously recorded with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1993. "But you might get the same answer from quite a lot of oboe players," he laughs. "The way Strauss uses the oboe is so wonderfully thought out, with those long, long phrases. And D major is a great key for the instrument."

Edwin Carr's 2002 Oboe Concerto is the last work the Waiheke-based composer wrote before his death in 2003, a score imbued with all the lightness and grace that marks Carr at his best.

"The Larghetto is the heart of the work," says Hunt, commenting also on the bracing energy of the two outer movements. "Carr uses the whole range of the oboe, but all the important stuff is written in a good register, which is not something you can say for all composers. They stretch us a bit sometimes and there are advantages when the music is conceived in a way that lets the instrument sing."

While some might find Carr's idiom a tad conservative, it is impossible not to be won over by his craft and elegance. "A lot of composers these days write music that is too angular, that contains too many clever intervals," Hunt explains. "The oboe isn't necessarily very good at clever intervals; it's better at singing lines. I don't want to sound like a stick-in-the-mud, but there's a limit to how clever a composer should be when writing for solo instruments. They ought to show more understanding of what shows an instrument at its best."

Inevitably, Sunday morning's Albinoni Concerto brings back memories of playing the slow movement of the composer's D minor Concerto for the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005, "an amazing experience but extremely cold", Hunt says. "The weather was freezing and the chapel was unheated because they had cherry blossom saplings in there and they didn't want the blossoms to fall. Great for the cherry trees, but not so good for musicians. I couldn't blow a note before I had to play. I had to just say a few little prayers and hope it worked. Luckily, I was in a chapel so saying prayers was the right thing to do."

Performance
What: Lion Foundation APO Orchestral Summer School Finale Concert

Where: St Cuthbert's College, Market Rd, Epsom

When: Tomorrow at 11am; tickets include lunch; see apo.co.nz