Who might have thought that second-tier Beethoven and a solid hour of Bruckner would attract the impressive numbers that came to Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Beethoven's Triple concert?
That it did is a testament to both the APO and charismatic music director Giordano Bellincampi.
Beethoven's "Triple Concerto" is a frustrating score, its two outer movements cheerfully sacrificing musical substance for pretty decoration but a shortcoming that energised young soloists almost made one overlook that.
Tianwa Yang, Gabriel Schwabe and Nicholas Rimmer were quite the team; Schwabe particularly ear-catching in his unforgiving cello part, eloquently introducing each movement.
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The best moments came in the Largo, allowing the soloists to enchant us as a piano trio, with light but telling orchestral colouring.
Bruckner's Seventh is his most popular symphony, despite the "New York Times" reporting that, during its 1886 American premiere, "a goodly part of the audience took flight."
Here, we all stayed for and through it as Bellincampi forged an almost tangible communion between musicians and listeners, immersing us in Bruckner's singular world.
It was a world that immediately ensnared us, as passionate cellos and violas cast their long, winding song trail, eventually sharing the space with magnificent brass outbursts that might well have demolished the doors of Wagner's "Valhalla".
Wagner's spirit hangs above this symphony, especially in its Adagio, written while the older composer was dying. Here, its dark emotional terrain and shifting harmonies were lustrously laid out by a quartet of Wagner tubas and, although one is tempted to liken this movement to Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" wrought monumental, an all-important sense of emotional intimacy was never sacrificed.
Bellincampi paused significantly before the wild, rustic scherzo and presented us with a finale to end all finales. Other conductors have perhaps been intimidated by Bruckner's "not fast" stipulation but here, with a minute or two shaved off many other interpretations, Bruckner's mercurial shifts of tone and texture were illuminated to perfection.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – Beethoven's Triple
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by: William Dart