Stephen De Pledge has finally brought what have become his iconic Landscape Preludes to Auckland, courtesy of the New Zealand International Piano Festival.

First up were some elegant, idiosyncratic takes on standard repertoire. Three Mazurkas from Opus 7 focused on the poetic Chopin. If the first was a bit over-worked in its shifts of style and the second volatile to the point where scherzando became accelerando, then the third, rising from a dark suffusion of colours, was flawless.

Brahms' Six Pieces of Opus 118 were a revelation. Bachian inspirations were not surprising in the first, but an evocation of Ravelian habanera in the fifth was inspired. Throughout, De Pledge's attention to the composer's often elusive voicings marked him as a true Brahmsian.

De Pledge's commissioning of a dozen Landscape Preludes from local composers is a trailblazing achievement, each writer bringing individuality and character to his or her contribution.

The composers find fascinating ways of dealing with the dissonances we expect of contemporary music. At its most confrontational, Dylan Lardelli's Reign stabbed and slashed while Lyell Cresswell's more ironically pitched Chiaroscuro was an astringent toccata with attitude.

Michael Norris' Machine Noises worked through to a playful conclusion with an almost Conlon Nancarrow jive.

Samuel Holloway's Terrain Vague accentuated the intensity of dissonant textures, ever drawn inwards, whereas Ross Harris' A landscape with too few lovers used reverberant texture to create the illusion of timelessness.

There was gleeful tonality in Jack Body's The street where I live. The composer's voice describes his Wellington home (with some tongue-in-cheek cliche) while De Pledge's piano mickey-moused behind with the skill of a silent movie maestro.

Inevitably, the three original preludes from 2004 have become old friends. Gillian Whitehead's magisterial Arapatiki now seems to nod to Rachmaninov in amongst its bellbird calls and flowing tides while Eve de Castro-Robinson's This liquid drift of light is securely suspended in eternal chiming perfection.

Victoria Kelly's Goodnight Kiwi has lost none of its essential freshness, with evanescent runs coursing over beautifully gauged harmonies.

An encore, De Pledge's own transcription of Brahms' Die Mainacht, reminded one of his talents as a student composer. Perhaps he should have coaxed himself to stretch the Landscape Preludes to a baker's dozen?

Who: Stephen De Pledge.

Where: Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber.

When: Wednesday.