Edo de Waart and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra launched their 2017 selection of Masterworks with a rather sedate sailing through Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture.

Minutes later, Elgar's Sea Pictures was not set in such a comfortable swell, the musicians creating a multitude of varied seascapes around soloist Michelle DeYoung. Sumptuous orchestral textures offered no problems for this singer to penetrate and, when an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem called for the dramatic, DeYoung showed just why she is so admired for her Wagner and Mahler.

Looking up from her score, she flashed radiant smiles at key phrases and gracefully acknowledged distracting applause between songs.

After interval, the opening pages of Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony were marred by intrusive static from an overhead loudspeaker, but not for long; soon we were on a first-class trip into the very heart of one of the great late romantic musical canvases.

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This score has 22 sections, each as clearly defined as a film cue, beginning and ending in dark, sonorous night. In between, taking us up and down this Straussian mountain, De Waart gave us dazzling waterfalls, a bone-rattling storm and, mid-work, a thrilling vision that peaked with the purest ecstasy.

What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart