Patriots was a curious title for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's most recent concert, suggesting we might be in for a rousing evening of composers' tributes to their homelands.

Dvorak's Carnival came nearest to fitting the bill and conductor Christopher Seaman had his players catching a Bohemian fair with appropriate gusto.

Just a few weeks ago, the APO had been immersed in Smetana's tune-filled Bartered Bride; this was more of the same and then some.

This overture is not all fairground jollity, some of which was slightly dented by harassed violin lines.


A magical Andantino, more delicate in its scoring, featured pristine wind sonorities, gracefully delivered.

At the other end of the evening was Tchaikovsky's monumental F minor Symphony, a work more about its composer's psychological trauma than the great Russian motherland.

Its first movement seemed a little lacking in the angst and neuroticism that all the wrenching chromaticism suggests, although the conductor's sense of precision was an asset in the to-and-fro of strings and woodwind over whispering timpani.

The great rush of the final Allegro con fuoco was terrifying; effectively so after an exquisite Andantino, inspired by the shapely phrasing of guest principal oboe, Peter Facer.

The concerto of the evening was the Distant Light by the Latvian Peteris Vasks, featuring English violinist Anthony Marwood with the strings of the orchestra.

Vasks' vision emerges out of a primal unknown; one could imagine the solo violin as a strange bird, fluttering over a mysterious sonic landscape. The work ends with a swooping, poignant cry from the soloist, while his colleagues are drawn inevitably upwards.

In between, there was the comfort of spiritual serenity, signposted cantabile in the score, and delivered by Marwood from the heart.

Marwood was riveting in the three extensive cadenzas, with only the second showing any moments of strain, portraying what he recently described as a lifetime in 30 minutes with passion and poetry.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall