Auckland Chamber Orchestra, under the admirable Peter Scholes, set off tonight with a welcome taste of the local.

Leonie Holmes' Aquae Sulis weaves expansive atmospheres, inspired by mythological mysteries and a resonating landscape.

Smaller forces might not replicate the lushness of the work's New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recording, but an intimate venue brought new focus. Muscular textures had thrust and immediacy; elsewhere there was chamber music clarity and memorable solos from Luca Manghi and Greg McGarity.

Preludes and Fugue by Lutoslawski offered an equally appreciated sampling of the 1970s avant-garde, too little heard.

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A circle of 17 string players tore open a Pandora's Box of startling sonorities. Occasionally solo lines were cruelly exposed, but, en masse, the musicians caught its unswerving momentum, through to the slippery slopes of a glissando-laden Fugue.

Pianist Henry Wong Doe has played brilliant Stravinsky and Hindemith with the ACO; tonight he transferred the same verve and vigour to Mozart's D minor Concerto.

Scholes and his orchestra shared the drama of its first movement, with beautifully turned woodwind playing and, while Wong Doe understood the swoon of Mozartian sighs, he clearly relished unleashing his full fury on two eccentric and wild Beethoven cadenzas.

His encore, an incandescent movement from Messiaen's Vingt Regards was a timely reminder of the mighty Messiaen feast that the NZSO brings us this Saturday.

What: Auckland Chamber Orchestra

Where: Raye Freedman Arts Centre

When: Sunday