Auckland Chamber Orchestra's Classical Symphony concert was a fine example of Peter Scholes' imaginative programming.

The opening Prokofiev Classical Symphony was more cautious than it might have been.

Concertmaster Dianna Cochrane was as rhythmically incisive as ever, but the first violins seemed nervous, especially in the leaps of the Allegro's second theme.

Despite brisk and stylish wind contributions, with only one double bass in the ensemble, the work sounded a little starved in its lower resonances.


Nicola Baker was a fresh, confident soloist in Mozart's final Horn Concerto. We heard clear trills in the first movement, a nicely nuanced diversion to the minor in the second, and an irrepressible rush of enthusiasm to close.

The second half of the concert opened with a wind serenade by a young Richard Strauss. Some of the city's top players provided a gleaming palette for this miniature symphonic poem, Scholes opting for contrabassoon rather than the optional tuba. Only in the grander climaxes did one wish that Strauss had sanctioned some strings into the mix.

Elliott Carter wrote his First Symphony in 1940 and ACO may well have given its New Zealand premiere.

The listener-friendly score has been described as a populist potpourri, but Carter saw it as a breakthrough in creating textures that were conceived in orchestral terms; and his brilliant musical braiding occasioned some of the most energised playing of the evening.

There may have been strong echoes of Copland but Carter is more deviously complex, with Scholes and his musicians alert to most of the twists and turns. Strings stirred magnificently in the second movement, which also featured striking solos from oboeist Martin Lee and trumpeter Huw Dann.

Carter labels his Finale "Vivaciously" and Scholes made a rollicking free-for-all of it, right down to a hornpiping sailor's dance.

What: Auckland Chamber Orchestra
Where: Raye Freedman Arts Centre.