Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's final town hall concert was a grand occasion with a near capacity audience warmly applauded by CEO Barbara Glaser and the players before a note was sounded.

Even without tonight's thrilling performances, this was a superb programme, tracking 69 years of French music from Berlioz to Ravel.

Once Kazuki Yamada had coaxed sweet and swooning sorrows from Ravel's well-known Pavane, soloist Cedric Tiberghien proved the ultimate dazzlemeister in Saint-Saens' Egyptian Concerto.

In delicious rapport with the orchestra, the French pianist was all fleet-fingered elegance in its Allegro animato, reconciling glitter with exhilarating primitivism in its finale.


Saint-Saens' exotic Andante, roaming the Mediterranean from Spain to North Africa, was electrifying, Tiberghien weighing chords with the precision of a sonic apothecary.

The pianist returned to Spain for his encore, through the chiselled habanera rhythms and textures of Debussy's La Puerta del Vino.

After interval, Yamada laid out the extraordinary musical universe of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, a wild, sprawling mass of raw romanticism. The orchestra evoked graceful ballrooms one moment, the cauldrons of Hell the next, with appropriate tenderness and terror.

Creating what sometimes seemed like the sweep of a Hokusai wave, the conductor added personal touches to the palette, giving the symphony's doomy chant to two tubas and then tubular bells and piano. I suspect Berlioz was smiling somewhere.

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