Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra may have titled its Thursday concert "Virtuoso Violin" but, for some, the highlight may have been a 10-minute work by English composer Thomas Ades ... but all shall be well.
It was a beautiful wooing of the audience, typical of a composer who talks of how he likes to draw listeners into a work and whet appetites with tantalisingly glimpsed cadences.
And we were captivated, as bell-like percussion unfurled a canvas of orchestral cries and sighs. It was also remarkably easy to pursue Ades' line of musical argument.
Catching every shift of colour and metre, conductor Eckhart Preu had the players giving of their best.
While the APO deserves praise for its determination to update our concert-going diet, it is disturbing that this particular work is almost 20 years old and should need no special advocacy.
Next up was Russian violinist Sergey Malov showing us the form that won him last year's Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
Alas, Paganini's Second Concerto was a poor substitute for the brilliant Bartok he chose last June.
This is a tired score and it was sad hearing a silvery-toned Malov trying to make Mozart out of an Adagio that, at best, was a lightweight Serenade.
The final La Campanella had vigour and style, but too often one felt that the violinist was not totally at ease with some of the almost circus-like feats that Paganini lines up.
As an encore, Malov demonstrated, in just two minutes, where this composer's genius lies - with a breathtaking A minor Caprice.
This is proving to be a year of spectacular Schumann and, after interval, Preu had the composer's Spring Symphony living up to its vernal nickname.
While the first movement's obsessive dotted rhythms are still a mite irksome, Preu invested the Larghetto with a rare sweep and passion and somehow made the eccentricities of its Finale seem not only natural but, at times, thrillingly modern.By William Dart Email William