Inspir' />

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's mid-year Splendour series is always an appreciated compensation for winter miserableness. The first of its three Inspired by Bach concerts at Auckland Town Hall was built around two Brandenburg Concertos.

The Third Concerto, with its latticework of motifs passed around a circle of string players, violins and violas, made a strong visual impact. Conductor Jayce Ogren set a solid pace, engineering a thrilling roar of cello and bass scales in its final movement.

The only let-down was exposed string solos in its opening Allegro, as too many players struggled with Bach's serpentine lines.

A smaller group clustered around Douglas Mews' harpsichord for the Sixth Brandenburg, although here the intricate interplay of line did not always register across the hall.

Nevertheless, violists Robert Ashworth and Benjamin Geller, one shadowing the other a quaver apart, had the buzz of a Wimbledon final. In the Adagio ma non tanto, aloft over Mews' shapely continuo work, they created a lyrical counterpoint to Eliah Sakakushev's cello.

The Bach connection in Alfred Schnittke's Concerto Grosso 6 is tenuous, more a matter of nomenclature than specific quotation.

Schnittke's bleak dissonance was perfectly captured by soloists John Chen and Dimitri Atanassov, dispensing the purest poetry in the Adagio.

Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra was fired by the remarkably efficient and vigorous Ogren whose discipline could be heard in the whisper of string tremolo a few seconds into the work and the joyous swing with which Ingrid Hagen and Yang Rachel Guan launched the coupling games of the second movement.

The Intermezzo was finessed in both wit and detail, with the brass providing a magnificent anchor for a tumultuous finale.