The title of the first concert of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Bayleys Great Classics series was a giveaway: a "Grand Tour", firmly locked into a European itinerary. APO music director Giordano Bellincampi introduced Fountains of Rome with an Italian pride and then, with his musicians, enjoyed being let loose in Respighi's musical paint box.

Colour was all, from washes of harps and the tinkling celesta to a spectacular Triton fountain and the sombre tolling of bells against muted strings.

The ponderous opening movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole confirmed why this is my least favourite violin concerto.

Alas, soloist Andrew Beer ultimately lacked the flamboyance needed in a work written for the charismatic Spanish violinist Sarasate. There was much to admire in Beer's neat handling of the twists and turns in Lalo's mercurial Scherzando, but a stressed dash through a Paganini Caprice was an unnecessary encore.


After interval, the last of Haydn's London Symphonies refreshed, as this composer's music so often does.

Bellincampi had earlier talked of Haydn's influence on later composers, but none of them managed to equal the sheer geniality of the man, so well captured tonight.

Above all, Haydn plays the unpredictability card. A grand introduction is never portentous, bursting into a shapely but bubbling Allegro. An innocent Andante is taken over by a raging storm, followed by a Minuet with a real swing to it and delightful woodwind writing in its Trio. Finally, the earthy zest of the symphony's Finale made one look forward the next pairing of the APO and Bellincampi, just a week away.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Thursday.