Doubtless it was the most celebrated Fifth Symphony of all time that drew a full house for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Beethoven's Triumph concert but the real triumph was the APO's astute programming.

How good to revisit Gillian Whitehead's the improbable ordered dance, premiered by the orchestra 15 years ago.

Giordano Bellincampi invested it with the same immaculate tonal moulding he gave to Ligeti last month, unlocking a universe of colour, framed by the whispering chatter of rainsticks. Early on, vibrant cor anglais, doubled by stratospheric violin induced goosebumps that never went away.

There was a palpable Pacific consciousness here, with an almost seismic climax mediated by stirring, lyrical strings and the composer's (and players') exquisitely sculpted blooms for woodwind and brass.


The ever-reliable Ning Feng brought out the lusciousness of Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto, without overdoing the cream on the sweeter-than-sweet pastry.

The orchestra was in total accord around him, reminding one of its brilliant playing (and programming) of the composer's 1952 Symphony a few years back.

Ning, a man of proven Paganini prowess, thrilled us at encore time with an exhilarating, daredevil rush through the composer's ultra-virtuoso take on God Save the King.

Those lured by Beethoven tonight were amply rewarded after interval by the famous Fifth.

Its signature first movement surged in an unstoppable wave of intensity, followed by an Andante con moto that balanced the formality of a minuet with flagrant fanfares. Bellincampi made the most of Beethoven's dynamic contrasts in the third movement before sweeping us all to the Finale's blaze of symphonic glory.

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