When Ronald Brautigam recorded Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto five years ago, he used a fortepiano; on Friday night, playing a modern Fazioli, the ravishing magic of that 2011 performance had not dimmed a whit.
A scaled-down New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, immaculately groomed by Edo de Waart, prepared us for enchantment, with an impatient pianist discreetly joining in the opening tutti. And what an entrance Brautigam made, with a balance of lithe, graceful melodies and iridescent passage work that unlocked the first movement's endless procession of musical conversations, shapely woodwind to the fore. A delightful Finale worked variations on a tune that could have been Haydn's, with chromatic shivers, and playful flourishes.
After interval, we were treated to the solid symphonic fare of Elgar's First Symphony.
Even without the aid of a Mahlerian programme, de Waart caught and sustained the emotional trajectory that underpins the massive score, from the measured caution of its opening Andante and more firmly resolved Allegro, to the confident stride of its triumphant last movement.
For 53 minutes, Elgar makes few concessions to uncommitted listeners but on Friday, fired perhaps by seeing the enjoyment of string players in its closing movement, the audience responded with the cheers and bravos the NZSO's final 2016 concert deserved.
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall