Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's major 2016 commission, a sixth symphony by Ross Harris, was the musical and emotional core of Thursday's Love and Loss concert.
First up, Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia set a mood of vibrant rapture; Giordano Bellincampi drew rich resonance from the main body of strings, poignantly echoed by a smaller group, high up, against an organ-pipe palisade.
The conductor admires Harris' organic new symphony and, from the beginning, alert ears could trace the growth of orchestral interlude from preceding song; more easily, in fact, than hearing Vincent O'Sullivan's eloquent poems, however exquisitely sung by Fiona Campbell.
This score dauntlessly explores a woman's world, with unflinching toughness and sympathy in the first poem. Pellucid scoring here forms an ironic backdrop, a gamelan-like ambience eventually assaulted by an almost militaristic fury in its interlude.
The second song has the marvelous Campbell exploring almost two octaves to sing of breaking hearts, eventually spurring on a brilliant orchestral response navigating extremes of pitch and density.
The resignation of the third song was intensely moving, inspired by the final chord that the late Jack Body wrote, first heard as a gentle lulling string accompaniment.
After interval, this thought-provoking if sometimes bleak work was followed by a burst of musical sunshine; Schumann's Spring Symphony, delivered with such vernal exhilaration that one might have imagined buds bursting from dotted rhythms.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall