There was a gala atmosphere at the final concert of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's New Zealand Herald premier series.
Mozart was a tasty aperitif and after a sparkling Don Giovanni Overture, music director Giordano Bellincampi surprised us with a handful of the composer's German dances.
These were lighter-than-air morsels, their sprightly tunes and triple-time ingenuity offering a piquant preview of Mahler yet to come.
Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs exude post-Straussian scrumptiousness and their fin-de-siecle languor was beautifully caught by Lisa Larsson and the orchestra. The musicians evoked the iridescent gleam of a late romantic twilight as the soprano's voice floated over them like an autumn leaf on the breeze.
Larsson returned after interval to add her exquisite touch to Mahler's Fourth Symphony, once Bellincampi had revealed the immensity of the composer's musical world in the first three movements.
The contrast of jingling sleigh bells and criss-crossing counterpoint effectively fired the opening movement, leading into the twisting and twisted grace of the second, with Andrew Beer's wry, re-tuned fiddle.
Mahler is celebrated for adagios and this symphony contains one of his most powerful. Aware of its Poco Adagio directive, Bellincampi avoided extreme slowness, finding strength in emotional intensity which climaxed with an E major roar and died away in a heavenly whisper.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart