There was an air of celebration at Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Zarathustra concert, with music director Giordano Bellincampi back in town for the APO's final town hall performances.
The 18-year-old Mozart managed the perfect balance of grace and humour in his Symphony No 29. If music could flirt with our sensibilities, then this is it. Bellincampi masterfully caught every shift of mood in it, occasionally summoning forth a theme of interest with outstretched arm.
A modestly sized orchestra responded in style, right through to a sunburst of a finale making one wonder whether Mozart knew the music of the then-forgotten Vivaldi.
Haydn's C major Cello Concerto is also a very special work, benefiting from a very special soloist. Casually playing along during the opening tutti, Julian Steckel's first solo entrance caught Haydn's quirky mix of classical refinement and rustic chutzpah in just four bars. Remember, after all, that this score was written for a court that was very much isolated in the Austrian countryside.
Not afraid of tender rubato for pleading Adagio lines, Steckel took us on an 18th century roller-coaster for the final Allegro molto, with a rollicking gusto that drew bravos from the audience before the last chord had faded. Offering Bach for his encore, Steckel chose a C major Prelude, making such an intriguing journey of it that one would happily have heard more of the suite.
After interval, the APO unleashed its full power in a resplendent account of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathstra. There is much more to this work than its opening fanfare, given icon status on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There were many thrills ahead, from sumptuous uber-romantic strings to unbridled joys and passions as only 107 musicians can deliver them, not to mention the final and perhaps ironic vision of the Nietzschean superman, portrayed with the lilt and glitter of a Viennese waltz.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra - Zarathustra
Where: Auckland Town Hall