Leonie Holmes' Frond set the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's concert off to an atmospheric start.
Evoking childhood memories of mysterious greenery, the Auckland composer has created a parallel nostalgic world to Bruce Mason's Te Parenga, with Vesa-Matti Leppanen's violin and Andrew Joyce's cello as memorable characters.
Conductor Alexander Shelley allowed sonorities to hang in the air as the music took the breaths necessary to release its beauties.
Record companies are quick to exploit the cover-boy potential of classical guitarists and tonight, Pablo Sainz Villegas combined movie star looks with a winning audience rapport.
The first movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez drew one very audible sigh of contentment from the stalls.
Yet Villegas did not coast. With effortless projection and crisp articulation, he wasn't afraid of more astringent sounds, a palette wittily explored in his bold and deliciously percussive encore.
Surely Bartok's eminently approachable Concerto for Orchestra wasn't the reason for so many vacant seats tonight? Shelley, with full NZSO forces, revelled in the glowing affirmation of this watershed score, hailed by critic Olin Downes in 1945 as the composer's "emergence from pessimism."
Swaying to woodwind and snare-drum syncopations, letting loose with a wicked Shostakovich parody and surrendering to Bartok's final blast of almost brazen celebration, the English conductor took orchestra and audience to new heights.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Auckland Town Hall