In the wake of three memorable Town Hall orchestral concerts featuring repertoire no more recent than 1940, Auckland Chamber Orchestra's Sunday programme reassured us that today's composers are alive, well and writing for classical big bands.

ACO's music director Peter Scholes had not only searched out Anna Clyne's 2009 Within Her Arms and Unsuk Chin's 2013 Graffiti, but placed them on either side of Hindemith's rarely heard Kammermusik No 2.

This 1924 Piano Concerto was set off like a firecracker by the flamboyantly capable Henry Wong Doe, leading the hip players around him on a frisky game of musical tag.

While energies never let up on the musicians' part, Hindemith's harmonically spicy bonhomie did lose some of its fizz by the finale. However, we had been amply rewarded by a bittersweet slow movement, not to mention a devilishly witty scherzo that might have given Poulenc and his Parisian bon vivants cause for envy.


After a prodigiously taxing 20 minutes, Wong Doe enchanted us with a delicately spun rendition of Eve de Castro-Robinson's this liquid drift of light.

The evening had opened with Within Her Arms, a lament for strings every bit as poignant as the celebrated Barber Adagio.

The noted conductor Riccardo Muti has praised Clyne for reaching across all barriers and borders and the ACO players, led by Dimitri Atanassov, communicated well her singularly fragile world.

Fleeting tinges of tentativeness seemed only to add to the sense of vulnerability that this score evokes.

Finally, there was the thrill of the new with Unsuk Chin's Graffiti, premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic less than two years ago. This major-league Korean composer is virtually unknown here and it was cheering to see this New Zealand premiere receiving a thumbs-up on her publisher's website.

Chin's response to the phenomenon of street art prompts a glorious outpouring of colour, with bold contrasts of the fierce and furtive in its opening movement.

A massive wall of percussion, visually dominating the stage, underlined the work's often unpredictable flurries and gestures, immensely enjoyed by musicians and audience at this corker concert.

What: Auckland Chamber Orchestra
Where: Raye Freedman Arts Centre
When: Sunday
Reviewer: William Dart