For two hours, a near capacity audience could forget the phantom of Brexit and fallout from German elections looming above Europe as an English conductor and French pianist brought European solidarity to Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's German Masters concert.
Douglas Boyd's spacious conception of Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture impressed with meticulous articulation before lifting tempo and dynamics to replace gentle waves with surging swell.
Liszt described Schumann's Piano Concerto as a concerto without piano but, had he been here tonight, he may have regretted his judgment. This performance was steered by the impulsive piano playing of David Fray, pitting the more volatile aspects of the composer's personality against sterner orchestral contributions, always excepting the lyrical bloom of Bede Hanley's oboe.
Schumann's Intermezzo was a dialogue of unexpected urgency while Fray's dazzling passage work in the finale made it seem as if we were revisiting some of the fantastical characters from the composer's Carnaval. Fray's encore complemented the theme of the evening: a luminous Bach chorale prelude, transcribed by the Italian Busoni.
After interval, we were made aware of how unjustly Beethoven's Fourth Symphony is overshadowed by the more famous Eroica which preceded it by two years.
With unflagging energy and fire, Boyd and his musicians caught every surprise and musical U-turn, while doing full justice to the work's rich and prescient Adagio.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra - German Masters
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart