The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra must be extremely happy with the good-sized audience on Friday for the first of its 2013 subscription series.
Dvorak's Cello Concerto would have been a major contributing factor, along with Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances; however, the concert's carefully chosen title, Echoes of Home, resonated from the very first piece of the evening, written by New Zealand composer Larry Pruden.
The NZSO strings gave Pruden's 1944 Soliloquy an expansive reading, with conductor Pietari Inkinen bringing the same sweep that we expect when he takes on Mahler.
Pruden, who wrote some particularly perceptive programme notes for the NZSO when it played Mahler back in the 1970s, would have been heartened to hear the players luxuriating in his lush harmonies, and thrilled when the violins soared from a forest of orchestral tremolos.
In recent years Aucklanders have heard both Gautier Capucon and David Geringas as soloists in the Dvorak Concerto.
On Friday, Daniel Muller-Schott did not have quite the lithe impulsiveness of the Frenchman nor the driven, Slavic intensity of the Lithuanian. Nevertheless, capitalising on the power of his Goffriller instrument, he gave a robust and highly charged account of the score.
The opening movement had an optimistic stride while the Finale balanced the lyricism of nostalgia with forthright folkishness. Between, one felt a real coming together between Muller-Schott and the orchestra's fine woodwind players.
An encore, for Britten's centenary year, was the opening Declamatio from the composer's Second Cello Suite, so fervent that one wished it could have been followed by Britten's rather impish Fugue.
The mortally ill Rachmaninov put great store on his Symphonic Dances, written just a few years before the Pruden Soliloquy. This was his "latest and best work", he wrote; Inkinen was determined it should sound so.
The bold extrovert outer movements, with their precision ensemble, incisively charted by Inkinen's baton, enclosed some tender beauties.
The first movement, a charming diversion for the wind, was inevitably dominated by Simon Brew's plaintive saxophone; in the second, one was impressed by the almost Gallic subtlety of the composer's most delicate traceries.
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall