Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Pastoral concert effortlessly fulfilled its promise of two star performances — from Scottish conductor Douglas Boyd and Amalia Hall, one of our country's most talented young violinists.
In 2017, Boyd's meticulous ear for detail fetchingly spruced up familiar Mendelssohn and Beethoven; in this performance, he fired the orchestral strings to give a blistering account of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro.
In music that was rugged and tender by turns, sometimes within the space of a bar, Boyd gave us bold striding lines and fierce tremolos exploding in cascading scales. A quartet of soloists, led by Andrew Beer, made its lines sing out, none more poignantly than violist Robert Ashworth.
It is good, in our brash times, to remember the elegance, style and craft of Camille Saint-Saens, all of which virtues are plentiful in his third violin concerto. The marvellous Amalia Hall navigated capricious passage work as if born to it. Behind her, Boyd maintained balance with an apothecary's finesse, filtering delicate orchestral tints throughout the Andantino.
Despite holding nothing back in a breathtaking finale, Hall returned with a generous encore of Ysaye's fourth sonata, played, like the concerto, from memory.
It is easy to become jaded with Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, in which the composer turned away from stern thematic development to often rough-hewn programme music to evoke his impressions of a day in the country.
Not so here, when one was transfixed from Boyd's moulding of the very first phrase. There was shape and spring and, as the movement progressed, skilful foregrounding and backgrounding of divergent colours.
The second movement's brook had the sweep of a fully-flowing river, complete with an unexpected coda; and the peasant's merrymaking was infectiously rustic. Even the final shepherds' song, celebrating the passing of what sounded like a Katrina-force storm, was not merely a complacent sunrise. Here instead there was a sense of the spiritually transcendent that took us to a higher plane altogether.
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What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra - Pastoral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart