Chamber Music New Zealand's QuintEssence was touted as a mini-festival, marketed with crass images of Mozart and Brahms as sparring pugilists; however, three concerts in one day proved more of a marathon.

Did this challenge occasion the disappointing attendance for Saturday's evening finale, where the New Zealand String Quartet and American violist James Dunham gave us the last of the day's Mozart and Brahms Quintets?

Hearing Mozart's G minor work made one realise why his two-viola quintets are so revered. The buoyancy was irresistible, the wealth and ingenuity of musical invention beautifully conveyed.

Brahms opens his G major Quintet with a Straussian blast and his writing benefited very much from Gillian Ansell's fervent viola, especially in an autumnal Adagio.

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If the Viennese grace of its scherzo didn't quite cohere as it might have, after a re-tune, a spirited Hungarian dance sent us off in good spirits.

In between the old masters, Salina Fisher's newly-commissioned Torino affirmed why she won this year's Sounz Contemporary Award.

The NZSQ immersed itself in Fisher's evocation of the versatile putorino, a Maori flute with trumpeting capabilities. Every colour counted in this procession of sighs, cries and whispers, taking us to an enchanted sonic forest to replenish our souls under a canopy of birdsong.

What: QuintEssence

Where: Auckland Town Hall

When: Saturday