Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra announced its 2017 programme earlier this year but now, with other major concert-giving organisations releasing their brochures, Aucklanders can look forward to a stimulating concert year ahead.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra renews its Masterworks series with music director Edo de Waart and, among traditional fare, there are surprises. The first concert features American mezzo Michelle DeYoung singing Elgar's Sea Pictures between Mendelssohn and Strauss. Later in March, de Waart cements his long association with John Adams by placing the American's Shaker Loops alongside Beethoven and Mozart.

Soloists include the warmly anticipated returns of violinists Karen Gomyo (playing Berg in August) and Janine Jansen (Sibelius in November), while percussion dynamo Colin Currie comes up with a pair of concertos by James MacMillan in July.

On the contemporary side, John Adams is flavour of the year, with three works programmed; don't miss his 48-minute Naïve and Sentimental Music in the NZSO's Aotearoa Plus concert in May, sharing the bill with Pierre Boulez's Notations I-IV and Gareth Farr's new cello concerto.


While Freddy Kempf's Pianomania in September sounds a bit of a concerto tiki tour, with Mozart, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninov represented by single movements only, Berlioz's massive The Damnation of Faust in August, with American bass-baritone Eric Owens as Mephistopheles, guarantees to be spectacular.

Chamber Music New Zealand rarely puts more than a dozen performers on stage and yet, when they have the status of Masaaki Suzuki (May) or the Takacs Quartet (August), Auckland's Town Hall can be transformed into the Wigmore Hall of your dreams.

There's a strong emphasis on the baroque and classical in CMNZ's 2017 offerings. France's L'Arpeggiata ensemble will no doubt divert Auckland Arts Festival punters in March with its own brand of baroque jazz, piano nestling up against harpsichord. In July, violinist Sigiswald Kuijken delivers Haydn and Mozart with his quartet as well as a solo Bach recital.

Michael Houstoun took Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas around the country in 2013; now, teaming up with Michael Hill winner Bella Hristova, he gives us the composer's complete violin and piano sonatas in three August concerts.

Home-grown music includes new commissions from Leonie Holmes and Natalie Hunt, while Takacs Quartet take their bows to Anthony Ritchie's 1996 Whakatipua. In May, Kathryn Stott and the New Zealand String Quartet tackle a John Psathas Piano Quintet and some may well consider a trip to Hamilton, two days later, to hear them play Gillian Whitehead.

After a busy 2016, New Zealand Opera extends to three main stage productions in 2017. In February, Stuart Maunder's update of The Mikado, set in "a modern-day Japan, in the new Waterfront Theatre, while Lindy Hume's Carmen is at the Aotea Centre in June, with the emphasis on the "sexy and sensual".

Finally, in September, there's Katya Kabanova, directed by Patrick Nolan. Not only is it about time we had some Janacek, but Anna Leese takes on the challenging title role, with a strong cast that includes Conal Coad and Margaret Medlyn. And let's not forget NZ Opera's festival production of Gareth Farr and Renee Liang's new The Bone Feeder in March.

There is much more, yet to be confirmed. I'm looking forward to Martin Snell in Auckland Choral's Elijah come September and the usual intriguing mix from Peter Scholes' Auckland Chamber Orchestra. Six concerts are lined up for 2017 including music by Sofia Gubaidulina and Harrison Birtwistle and the first professional performance of Silk/Gravel by Alex Taylor, one of our busiest young composers, and the recipient of a much-deserved 2016 New Generation Award from the Arts Foundation.