There is an appreciated elegance to the 2015 brochures published by the country's three major concert-giving organisations - the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Music New Zealand.

The APO, nourishing our city's musical wellbeing from city centre to outer suburbs, has incorporated in its pages stylish images by artists such as Gavin Hurley, Reuben Paterson and Tiffany Singh.

The orchestra held its entertaining launch a few weeks ago. There were no tempting previews of Kiwi symphonies in progress this time, but the orchestra, under Hamish McKeich, marketed with the actual music - always the best policy.

Next year will be the last for music director Eckehard Stier and there are obvious favourites lined up, from a Shostakovich Fifth in April to a jazz-inspired programme in July. Stier also takes on both the opera in concert (Puccini's Turandot) and an adventurous choral classic (Tippett's A Child of Our Time).


Conductors such as Lionel Bringuier, Giordano Bellincampi and Garry Walker make a welcome return; new batonmeisters include the Venezuelan Ilyich Rivas and the Norwegian Eivind Gullberg Jensen.

Star soloists range from violinist Isabelle Faust (Mendelssohn in July) to pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Ravel in August).

The APO's New Zealand Herald Premier series opens in February with Ilya Gringolts playing Ross Harris' 2010 Violin Concerto, a performance that will eventually be featured on another of the orchestra's CDs.

New local offerings have five composers responding in May to the brief of Letters in Wartime, the youngest being 19-year-old Callum Blackmore. A new commission, In Paradisum, by resident composer Kenneth Young, can be heard during the Auckland Festival in March, with an integral visual component by Tim Gruchy.

With all the talk of the Lilburn centenary in 2015, the APO comes up with the most enterprising project - a May concert that features the composer's gnarly Nine Short Pieces for Piano, orchestrated by Auckland composer Anthony Young, and a selection of Lilburn's songs orchestrated by Philip Norman and sung by Emerging Artists from NZ Opera.

Soprano Renee Fleming, the brightest star in the NZSO's rather conservative programme, will shine only in Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre. It is also disappointing that Auckland will hear just one of Freddy Kempf's concerts of Beethoven piano concertos, in Takapuna's Bruce Mason Centre of all places.

Another American soprano, Christine Goerke, a stunning Brunnhilde in the NZSO's 2012 Walkure, heads a Wagner Gala of Bayreuth highlights alongside tenor Simon O'Neill.

Violinists Janine Jansen (March) and Hilary Hahn (June) would seem guaranteed box-office, but some might have wished for more exciting concertos than Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.


Major local commissions are a new symphony by Michael Williams for the April Anzac concert and Michael Norris' Claro, which opens Aotearoa Plus in May.

Chamber Music New Zealand's 2015 Kaleidoscopes booklet has a smiling Vienna Piano Trio on its cover, but this group and the Brodsky Quartet are the only international ensembles on offer. This is a bold move, meaning that Lilburn's big birthday can be celebrated twice, with his Allegro for String from the Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble in June and the Violin and Piano Sonata from Natalie Lin and John Chen two months later.

Three CMNZ concerts under the banner of Our Music: Composer Connections, with NZTrio, New Zealand String Quartet and New Zealand Chamber Soloists, are shared between centres. Many Aucklanders may feel slightly despondent, however, at being allotted Rachmaninov, Babajanian and two familiar John Psathas scores when other audiences will hear the new Ross Harris Piano Quintet or NZTrio's feast of Webern, Ligeti and Sciarrino, alongside young New Zealanders Karlo Margetic, Alex Taylor and Claire Cowan. Let's be grateful to Radio New Zealand Concert which no doubt will be broadcasting these concerts.