A personable Rumon Gamba introduced the first concert of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Pushing Boundaries with a passion, authority and humour that suggested this might be the APO's most successful winter series yet.
The Adagio from Mahler's unfinished last symphony is almost unbearably poignant - there was also a sense of goose-bump inevitability. Its surging theme, laced with delicate portamenti, released its swansong over orchestral swells, more like human breaths and sighs than mere notes on paper.
A smaller orchestra set off Haydn's second cello concerto at a crisp canter, providing the perfect springboard for Torleif Thedeen, whose nimble, nicely-shaded passagework was only occasionally tinged with strain.
Balancing this busyness were more reflective moments, with the Swedish cellist and orchestra in the sweetest of harmonising; a lyricism that burst into full bloom for Thedeen's encore, Pablo Casals' celebrated peace offering, Song of the Birds.
Early on, Gamba had asked who were first-timers for The Rite of Spring and, after interval, astonished and even terrified, they may well have been swept well out of their classical comfort zone.
All of Stravinsky's primeval fury blazed and brayed to spine-tingling effect, right down to the stalking prowl of the Spring Rounds. However, the edgy beauties revealed in those hypnotic calm passages that punctuate the ballet's cataclysmic storms were every bit as impressive.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall