Schubert’s masterpiece sets scene for enterprising programme.

Auckland Chamber Orchestra's flexibility in terms of personnel has always enabled Peter Scholes to create some of the most enterprising programmes around.

So it was on Sunday, when Schubert's Trout Quintet set the scene for a Suite from Scholes' own A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Three members of Jade Quartet and bass player Bella Zilber gathered around pianist David Guerin to remind us of the sheer zest for life that permeates Schubert's masterpiece.

Although more polish would have been ideal, especially with challenged violin intonation, there were ample rewards to be enjoyed by the ACO's loyal audience.


One was the grace, clarity and composure of an Andante that had the buoyancy of a Minuet; another came in the fifth variation of its celebrated theme, with David Garner's cello elegantly spearing through a harmonically volatile stream.

Magic was once more afoot in the forest when Peter Scholes conducted his A Midsummer Night's Dream, written for the Royal New Zealand Ballet almost 20 years ago.

Evoking the world of the Kiwi bush as much as Shakespeare's Athenian woods, he marshalled an engaging ensemble of string and saxophone quartets with two extremely busy and expert percussionists.

The ingenuities of two decades ago have not dimmed although, from the first coming together of Oberon and Titania, the cohesion of an often fragmented score would have benefited from the involvement of dancers.

In concert, set pieces, such as the pair's later, magnificent pas de deux, worked best, with their unified texture and thematic material.

The musicians' personalities provided impetus, too, when violist Robert Ashworth introduced Titania and her fairies with one of the work's many bold melodic statements.

The saxophone quartet came up with punchy ripostes and more when Mark Storey's soprano instrument floated over "The Air Mattress", shadowed by Yvette Audain's alto.

Pianist Rosemary Barnes, who concocted some sonic magic of her own from a KORG keyboard, turned to piano for the riotous engagement party of the closing Epilogue.

Her hypnotically ambling blues ushered in some of the most enjoyable and wackiest music of the evening, including some merry mayhem being foisted on the familiar Mendelssohn Wedding March.

What: Auckland Chamber Orchestra
Where: Raye Freedman Arts Centre