The first instalment of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Templar Great Classics series drew impressive numbers to the town hall, with the debut of enterprising big-screen relay in Aotea Square that could in time draw a sizeable potential audience.
The musical postcards of the concert's title were transatlantic, dashingly launched by George Gershwin's An American in Paris. The composer's brother and fellow songwriter, Ira, saw this score as creating a new American music through native gusto, wit and awareness; all of which registered vividly in Giordano Bellincampi's hip musical direction of his ace orchestral team.
From bustling Parisian traffic, with taxi horns and clippety-clop woodblocks to Huw Dann, soaring and sinuous in his bluesy trumpet solo, this was the most convincing account of the work I have ever heard in the flesh.
One might criticise the loosely strung-together structure of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue but there's no gainsaying its energy and chutzpah, crammed full of moments that coax the same smile of recognition as might a fondly remembered holiday snap.
Australian pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska was a spirited soloist, more volatile than some in cadenza mode, with Steinway power sometimes proving no match for brass and reeds in full swing.
Cislowska's encore was a barnstormer; Gottschalk's showy
, acknowledging the presence of Wellington banjo man, David Ward, in the orchestra behind her.
After the interval, one appreciated the complete rendition of The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla, placing the ballet's well-known dances into fascinating context.
Amongst many bonuses, there was mezzo Kristin Darragh delivering flamenco fire on stage and off. With the APO making the most of Falla's Spanish orchestral sunshine, we heard a playful quote from Beethoven's Fifth and, amongst the intriguing sonorities, extra bird calls and a delicious bassoon introduction to the villainous Corregidor.
Towards the end of this 40-minute orchestral showcase, Bellincampi couldn't hold back from leaping in the air. And our hearts leapt with him.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – Musical Postcards
Where: Auckland Town Hall