On Thursday, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra rewarded a spellbound Auckland Town Hall with a brilliant display of the orchestral art. Charismatic Kazakh conductor Alan Buribayev ensured that works by Kodaly, Rachmaninov and Liszt lived up to the concert's title of Symphonic Dances.

Kodaly's Dances of Galanta is a reliable audience warmer, but its gypsy rhapsodies electrified. The musicians charted every step and sway of the dancing, while clarinettist Signe Somer took her solos with such gusto that she could well consider setting up her own verbunkos band.

It's difficult to resist the invitation handed out in the opening pages of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. Tonight, one was powerless to avoid being swept away by their exhilarating waves of energy. Full marks, too, to saxophonist Michael Jamieson and the woodwind for the cool beauties of the contemplations that followed.

The highlight came in the second dance, which suggested the subtleties and shadings one might expect from Ravel.


Pianist Sergio Tiempo was born to play Liszt, if tonight's E flat Concerto were any indication. His unfettered virtuosity, with cliff-edge rushes of recitative, caught the theatrical side of the composer to perfection while Buribayev proved the perfect ringmaster for the piece's Big Top finale.

The pianist turned alchemist at encore time when a placid Chopin Nocturne, immaculately voiced, erupting into a storm of almost Lisztian fury.

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