Ross Harris' programme note for his new Cello Concerto is barely 50 laconic words, yet its central image of ascending from darkness into light provided the title for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Into the Light concert.

The gloom of the opening bars, as cellist Li-Wei Qin takes flight from the growl of double basses and bass drum, was almost tangible.

Bursts of florid writing, effortlessly handled by the soloist, provoked orchestral commentary; a tightly-knit quartet with cor anglais, harp and horn had melodic tinting that betrayed Harris' interest in klezmer music.

From the start, one sensed that conductor Garry Walker was enjoying the symphonic argument, marshalling the musicians like a stage director, especially as the work gained momentum, moving to its final destination.


Harris' writing tests orchestra and soloist. Both were superb, especially Qin, dispensing jaunty passagework while, behind him, the APO offered memories of bygone marches.

As the work developed, there were more extrovert moments. One, in (mostly) triple time, strode boldly but was soon countered by a more elegiac strain, showcasing Qin's immaculate playing.

The good news for those who missed both the concert and Radio New Zealand Concert's broadcast, is that this performance has been recorded.

On either side of the concerto, Walker showed the musical tenacity that we have come to expect.

The first movement of Haydn's Symphony No44 revealed a composer who understood the nuances of court life and the rustic goings-on of the village. If the Adagio was slightly compromised by thin violins, then the Finale was a real 18th century hoedown.

After interval, there was a sense of deliberation in Brahms' First Symphony. Particularly memorable were a burst of almost Wagnerian splendour early in the second movement and some carefully considered colourings in the third.