By curious coincidence the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Bold Worlds concert showcased intrepid British music on the eve of the final Lions/All Blacks test.

The opening voyage of Thomas Ades' 2011 Polaris was fearlessly navigated by conductor Sir James MacMillan, savouring its shimmer so much that five minutes were added to the advertised fourteen.

So powerful was this mesmeric take on minimalism, with intricate textures harbouring networks of breeding melodic lines, that one didn't miss the projected images that have accompanied American performances.

MacMillan's own 2012 Second Percussion Concerto transformed the stage into a sonic playground for the lithe Colin Currie.


Musical values aside - there was certainly too much bombast for my taste - Currie was electrifying with his multifarious mallets.

Highlights included some dovetailed ensemble playing between Currie and orchestral percussion, and a magical interlude setting West Indian steel drums against Sam Burstin's passionate viola.

But was the boldest work of the evening in fact Vaughan Williams' 1932 Fourth Symphony?

There were no larks ascending in this English composer's symphonic portrait of dark, grim times, hinting at the sardonic scores of the younger Shostakovich.

The orchestra revelled in it all, under maestro MacMillan and, while unbridled brass made chilling, thrilling impact, was the sheer stillness of the second movement just as eerie?

What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart