Settling the Score
sounds like the title of a television reality show featuring feuding neighbours; in fact, it was a concert, showcasing the top 10 in Radio New Zealand Concert's listener survey of the same name.
TV3's John Campbell, taking a break from campaigning for school lunches, was a smooth MC. His tally keeping and banter were appreciated by a large, responsive audience, rounding off the evening with fervent and justified praise for the APO.
There had been rumours of Kiwi music activists trying to get something local and recent on to the playlist; it didn't happen.
Shostakovich's searing "tribute" to Stalin from his 1951 Tenth Symphony, delivered with just the right edge of terror by conductor Eckehard Stier, was as contemporary as we got - and a welcome dash of acerbity in a predominantly slow-paced selection. Still, who could complain when the Largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony was rendered with such compelling clarity, right through to that ethereal final chord from the double-basses.
A surprise guest was soprano Madeleine Pierard, whose effortless Im Abendrot from Strauss' Four Last Songs lent resilience and vigour to the song's sunset visions.
The orchestra can be proud of the three other soloists, all playing from memory. The emotional intensity that Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck brought to the first movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto made one long for the rest of the work. And, after an impeccably contoured Adagio from Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, I would have liked to hear James Fry have fun in its finale.
We are accustomed to Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending being a regular winner, but Campbell warned us the bird had slipped off its perch to runner-up. In performance, once past a few nervous tremors, violinist Amalia Hall had the blithe-spirited creature soaring to heaven itself.
Holst's The Planets took the prize and its Jupiter movement thrilled with its unbounded and sometimes ferocious jollity. Coming out of the hall, someone - perhaps as much a football fan as a music one - was whistling its celebrated tune. The score had certainly been settled to one punter's satisfaction.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart