Ibragimova Returns was ample reward for the expectation.' />

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Ibragimova Returns was ample reward for the expectation brewing up since the Russian violinist first dazzled us with Shostakovich in 2011.

Bartok's Second Violin Concerto was the object of Alina Ibragimova's charismatic artistry. We may have been lured into this 1938 work with placid major chords but, within a page, we were transfixed by the soloist's often fiery narrative.

Giordano Bellincampi and his musicians partnered well, underscoring veering mood shifts, spinning ethereal enchantment, swinging punchy rhythms and surging magnificently in exultant climaxes. Even after half-hour of such hyper-energy, peaking in Ibragimova's vehement, virtuosic cadenza, there was a generous encore of searing solo Bartok.

The evening had started by playing favourites. Rossini's William Tell overture put predictable beams on faces when Bellincampi whipped the orchestra through its Lone Ranger finale. Yet earlier there was also poetry, with a heartrending introduction from soulful lower strings, followed by cor anglais duetting with flute to create an alpine idyll.


After the interval, Schubert's Fifth Symphony charmed as it should. Bellincampi set a cracking pace and every shapely phrase positively bounced with joy. The evening ended with a farewell. Principal Flute Emma Gerstein, who is leaving the APO for a post with Chicago Symphony, sent us home with some rollicking, scrumptiously ornamented Bach as an earworm for the rest of the evening.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart