Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra launched its Bayleys Great Classics series with a veritable Teutonic triumvirate of Wagner, Schumann and Mendelssohn.

Auckland last heard Wagner's Siegfried Idyll just three months ago but there's no denying it's the perfect prelude to an evening of music-making, expressing a composer's joy and wonderment at the birth of his son.

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi coaxed gentle elation from his players, building up anticipation until all bloomed in a thrilling apogee.

Veronika Eberle made her debut with the APO in 2008 when, as a talented 19-year-old, she tackled the Beethoven violin concerto. For this performance, with printed score in front of her, Eberle's talents were lavished on a lesser work, Schumann's 1853 violin concerto, one of his last compositions to be completed before his attempted suicide and incarceration.

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This concerto has its admirers - Austrian violinist Isabelle Faust once described its first movement to me as a masterpiece in its blend of Don Giovanni and the baroque.
Here, it simply seemed stolid with too many stentorian blasts of full orchestral tutti, the only emotional engagement coming when soloist and orchestra shared its gentler second theme.

An even more stolid finale revealed some strain impacting on the valiant soloist.
In between, the slow movement was of much superior calibre with its lingering premonitions of Mahlerian twilight. The composer's obsessive syncopations and the musicians' finely gauged rubato combined to add a psychological edge to its beauty.

After interval, we were taken to warmer climes with the zesty joie de vivre of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. Bellincampi delivered it with a compelling earthiness, from the rustic woodwind interpolations of its opening Allegro vivace to the exhilaration of its closing runaway Saltarello.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Love Letters
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart