The buzz of elation was palpable when conductor Uwe Grodd introduced Manukau Symphony Orchestra's Seascapes concert, marking a welcome homecoming for the MSO after too many events lost through lockdown.
We remained on terra firma for the opening cello concerto, a rarely heard 1970 score by Arthur Bliss but soloist Andrew Joyce ensured that this was anything but an earthbound experience.
Familiar to many as the principal cellist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Joyce fashioned the English composer's witty astringencies into an effervescent delight.
Grodd and his players were deft participants in dancing textures, with the elegant and spritzing woodwind reminding one of the great Bliss ballets. The loveliest touch came in the Larghetto with the gentle chimes of Kay Shacklock's celesta in duet with Joyce's lyrical cello.
After interval, we had our first taste of the marine with Beethoven's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, one of two enterprising cantatas enlisting the vocal contribution of Auckland Choral.
Both this and Brahms' Song of Destiny were highly imaginative programming and the singers were particularly full-voiced and energetic when Beethoven celebrated his escape from the tensions of becalmed waters.
Brahms' curiously positive spin on a fairly bleak Holderlin poem inspired a rousing performance all around; the choir enjoying its rhythmic play and powerful unisons, the orchestra, apart from a few exposed string moments, in fine fettle.
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Chris Artley's Of Land and Sea, an MSO commission, sets the words of South Auckland poet Robina Adamson alongside some traditional te reo text. It proved to be a rousing finale.
A seasoned choral composer with a convincingly conservative idiom, sensitive to the requirements of these musicians, Artley drew a warm response from both choir and orchestra.
A good part of the work's success was due to soprano soloist, Gina Sanders, launching Adamson's evocative verses with exemplary clarity and soaring above orchestra and choir during many sumptuous climaxes.
What: Manukau Symphony Orchestra
Where: Vodafone Events Centre
When: Saturday, November 14