The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, paying a second visit to Auckland within eight days, came to town with a curious (and rather short) programme.
A second hearing of Gareth Farr's new He iwi tahi tatou was a visceral, exciting overture to an evening lighter in content than last week's double bill of Brahms and Tchaikovsky.
Farr's ebullient orchestral workout would have competition ahead in a similarly extrovert score that opened the second half of the concert.
Harth-Bedoya has brought us music by his countryman Jimmy Lopez before, and Fiesta!, described by its Peruvian composer as "Four Pop Dances for Orchestra", was a showcase of orchestral dazzle, even if excessive lacings of bongo fury made one aware of a worrying lack of real musical substance.
Positioned between these flashy sonic Cadillacs, Mozart's Bassoon Concerto was like a horse-and-buggy ride. This early work by the composer is not, alas, top-drawer in inspiration and one's admiration went out to soloist Robert Weeks, unfazed by the relentless passagework of its determinedly cheerful Allegro.
The ultimate test would come in the Andante ma Adagio, an alarmingly wan outpouring alongside the composer's later slow concerto movements for clarinet, flute, violin and piano.
Beethoven's Eighth Symphony can always be relied on for a half-hour of unfettered merriment. Harth-Bedoya certainly injected the spirit of the dance into its opening Allegro vivace con brio.
Harth-Bedoya's Allegretto scherzando was deliciously sprightly and he drove the orchestra with gusto through Beethoven's finale.
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart