The Bolero title of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra concert, with its promise of high-octane music making, must have played some part in drawing a near full house. However, the first few minutes of the evening were almost monastic in their austerity.
Arvo Part's Fratres is the soul of simplicity, a sombre procession from pianissimo to fortissimo and back again. Undertaken by staunchly tonal strings, punctuated with dashes of percussion, it was a profoundly immersive journey under the baton of Kazuki Yamada.
The intense, winding lines that launch Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste seemed to grow naturally from this yet we were soon thrust, with gusto, into the Hungarian's familiar earthy style.
Alongside compulsively dance-like rhythms, often on the wild side, I found utter enchantment in the composer's atmospheric night music. There were eerie moments in which a theremin may have been lurking amongst the evanescent washes of Sarah Watkins' piano, David Kelly's celeste and Ingrid Bauer's harp.
Louis Schwizgebel was the epitome of elegance in Ravel's G major Piano Concerto; light and incisive in touch, and often hovering over the keys like a musical jeweller, polishing the brilliance that came forth.
An ebullient orchestra contributed a succession of crisp solos throughout Ravel's cheeky first movement. In between this and a runaway finale, Schwizgebel fashioned pure poetry in the Adagio, against a series of luminous woodwind solos culminating in Martin Lee's cor anglais singing its heart out over gossamer piano scales.
In the six minutes setting the stage for Ravel's Bolero, a sense the charged anticipation was running through the hall, and it was still in the air during Kathryn Moorhead's sinuous flute solo over Eric Renick's implacable snare drum.
Bold and flamboyant, with crooning saxes and some unexpected choreography in the bass line-up, it was tumultuously exciting — little wonder that Yamada couldn't resist a touch of podium dancing. But then, after all, the piece was written for Ida Rubinstein, star of the Ballets Russes.
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What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra - Bolero
Where: Auckland Town Hall