Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's 2017 programme is a staggering achievement.

There was an air of anticipation and celebration in the town hall at this week's launch, a smooth sandwiching of speeches and music, ably conducted by Holly Mathieson. The showstopper was Sibelius with three performers from The Dust Palace twirling on trapezes high above the musicians.

We'll have to wait until November, 2017, to see them in the APO's Midnight show but, in the meantime, the orchestra is determined we have a musically memorable summer.

In January, Chinese composer Tan Dun conducts Stravinsky, Falla and his own music, followed by a "Grand Day Out at Gibbs Farm" in February, inviting punters to rove the Makarau fields, enjoying live music in and around the massive sculptures.


April's Starman concert features local singers from Jon Toogood to Julia Deans paying homage to David Bowie; later that month, Gallery of Sound has five young Kiwi composers responding to works from Auckland Art Gallery alongside Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Ronan Tighe, director of artistic planning, can be justifiably proud of next year's New Zealand Herald Premier series, previewed tonight with the roar of a John Rimmer fanfare.

Tighe singles out harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, playing Poulenc in April, as "quite a coup for us" and, in September, looks forward to the pairing of pianist David Fray with conductor Douglas Boyd, "whose Symphonie Fantastique with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe was one of the best concerts I've ever seen".

Local composers have not been forgotten with two major premieres in this main series. Lyell Cresswell's new piano concerto, which Michael Houstoun gives us in October, consists of what sounds like intriguing short movements, all based on Bach chorales.

"The performance coincides with Michael's birthday," Tighe adds, with a smile. "A birthday treat that we can all enjoy."

Auckland concert-goers are firmly behind the city's orchestra. Cheers greet the news that two principal players, oboist Bede Hanley and percussionist Eric Renick, will premiere concertos by Christopher Rouse and Karlo Margetic, the APO's resident composer.

It's cheering, too, to hear that Bayleys Great Classics series is now four concerts, with August's choral evening of Bach and Handel, bringing in the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and English conductor Matthew Halls.

Equally pleasing is the free organ recital before each concert - a welcome and generous touch, as is the opportunity for series subscribers to bring along a young friend gratis.
With New Zealand Opera yet to announce its full 2017 schedule, you can book now for its mid-year concert collaboration with the APO in Puccini's Manon Lescaut, a favourite of music director Giordano Bellincampi.

Bellincampi said "if we can get Massimo Giordano to play Des Grieux, we're on". The APO did and you can secure tickets now for July 14.

Earlier in the week, CEO Barbara Glaser enthused to me about 2017's Newstalk ZB Rule Breakers and Innovators, a series of three concerts featuring composers who disregarded convention and struck out in new directions. You'll find Schoenberg in a programme, says Glaser, with two beautiful Debussy pieces and a Philip Glass violin concerto.

Launching next year's programme, she took her final words from the Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, expounding eloquently on why he loved music and how it needed to be put firmly in the foreground and listened to live.

His admonition that "people want to have grown-up conversations about music and the arts" inspired Glaser to a final, irresistible exhortation for us to talk to friends about our live, wonderful concert experiences, not forgetting that some of them are yet to come in the remaining months of 2016.