Who could blame the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for saving its best till last to farewell 2017?
Anyone tempted to relegate the Sibelius Violin Concerto to the warhorse stable should have experienced Janine Jansen's blistering account of it.
As happened two years ago, when the Dutch violinist took on Tchaikovsky, she seemed positively possessed by the music. Her take on Sibelius' mix of the stoic and the passionate was gripping, from an opening solo almost feral in its intensity.
While Jansen's cadenza put her technical and interpretative virtuosity in a justified spotlight, it was her spirited engagement with the musicians around her that made this performance so special. Mellow woodwind guarded her sonorous outpouring in the second movement, while the closing pages proved an exhilarating race through Edo de Waart's orchestral storm.
The NZSO also merited star billing in this last of the conductor's Masterworks concerts.
Brahms' Third, the most ingratiating of his four symphonies, opened with lusty, striding strings; a smooth woodwind quartet defined the finesse of its Andante and the Poco Allegretto was the cry from the heart it should be.
A smaller orchestra did full justice to Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, in which this composer of monumental stage dramas pens an intimate love letter to his wife on the birth of their son. It was simply blissful, with every sighing phrase gauged to perfection and, in de Waart's experienced hands, premonitions of Mahler and Elgar were more potent than ever.
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart