Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's final town hall concert for 2019 may have been titled Conflict & Triumph, but it opened with the subtle strains of a new commission from Salina Fisher.
The seven fragile minutes of the young New Zealander's Murmuring Light created its own impressionist world from the play of light - as her 2015 Rainphase did from water.
Conductor Giordano Bellincampi mixed timbres like a master painter, from intricate string writing to unfamiliar piano effects. Birds were ever present, in both individual song and in clustering sonic flocks.
Ning Feng has come a long way since winning the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2005. As a frequent soloist with the APO, he has shown an almost alchemical talent in transforming second tier concertos to gold status but here, playing Beethoven, we were in solid masterpiece country.
With every note given its due weight and nuance, it was Feng's sweet unfaltering lyricism that registered most vividly; not only in the Larghetto but throughout the dramatic reach of the first movement. It seemed significant that he chose Fritz Kreisler's very romantic cadenza and gave us understated, almost whispered Bach at encore time.
Throughout the concerto, Bellincampi and his players impressed from the start with unexpected and individual touches in phrasing.
After interval, there was conflict and triumph aplenty in Carl Nielsen's Fifth Symphony. Bellincampi, who invariably registers infectious joy on the podium, was in a state of high elation throughout.
This symphony is a gnarly beast, its character caught in its composer's image of rolling a stone uphill to let it rest, tense with energy, until it rolls down. Inevitably, the first movement was dominated by the freewheeling snare drum of Eric Renick, moved to a higher, dominating vantage point above the orchestra after Nielsen's powerfully brooding Adagio.
Bellincampi guided us through the symphony's vast, unsettling second movement with its tungsten harmonies and unsparing tensions until triumph was assured.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – Conflict and Triumph
Where: Auckland Town Hall