For John Chen, Friday night's Chamber Music New Zealand concert was a homecoming with a difference.
There was no orchestra behind him; nor was he in recital dazzling us with Dutilleux and charming us with Mozart.
Instead he was alongside Canadian violinist Luanne Homzy and American cellist Peter Myers, showing us just why their Saguaro Trio won the 2009 Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition.
It is a brave ensemble that introduces itself with Hummel, whose music has such a limited emotional range alongside that of Beethoven.
Nevertheless, from the very opening of Hummel's F major Trio, Chen made it clear we were in for a Viennese treat.
This was no peremptory note-spinning - every phrase was caressed with affection. By the second variation of the Andante, with Myers' suave cello manoeuvring through the bustling dance of his colleagues, it became clear that the Hummel revival is warranted.
Arensky's D minor Piano Trio may not be profound, but its Slavic emotions were tempered with elegance and lightness, especially in the first movement's development section. Once again, it took just a few bars from the ever-expressive Myers to inspire an Elegia of astonishing depth.
After interval Alwyn Tomas Westbrooke's "?" or: Why Gryphons Shouldn't Dance was a remarkably uncompromising commission in times when many composers write for easy listening rewards.
Homzy and Myers' pungent launch was the first of many passages that seemed to be inspired by the electronic muse and yet this was no laboratory piece. Once Chen had joined them, it was evident that Westbrooke had conceived his score as something of a tussle between strings and piano. This made for absorbing drama, all wrapped up with a piano cadenza that Chen delivered with bravura.
The Saguaros played Brahms's Second Piano Trio as if it had been written for these musicians, effortlessly navigating the complexities of the opening Allegro. Fire and passion were not forgotten, especially when one of the Andante's variations went flamboyantly Hungarian.
A concert well worth catching when Radio New Zealand Concert schedules its recording of the evening.
What: Saguaro Trio
Where: Auckland Town Hall