Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Power & Brilliance concert fulfilled the promises of its title with two major 20th century masterpieces, one featuring the winner of last year's Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
True, it was unfortunate that the opening overture, from Borodin's Prince Igor, had been played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra only three weeks ago. However, despite a few moments of unsettled ensemble, conductor Alan Buribayev fashioned a zesty launch pad out of it.
If memories of Alina Ibragimova's transcendent 2011 performance of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto lingered with some in the audience, then here the orchestra contributed a special vigour and commitment behind soloist Ioana Cristina Goicea, putting her own stamp on an extraordinary score.
There are such grim beauties in this 1948 work, cries from the heart in times of unrelenting Stalinist repression. Goicea explored the full expanse of its emotional terrain; her unwavering lyricism in the Nocturne and vibrant song in its dark Passacaglia contrasted with the scherzo's barbed lightning and the knockabout ironies of its Big Top Burlesca.
Her absolute assurance in Shostakovich's extremely taxing cadenza was a preview, in many respects, for an encore to come — a lingeringly buoyant Bach Sarabande.
After the interval, the ebullient Buribayev let the orchestral musicians share solo honours in Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and splendid they were, from dancing wind couples in the second movement to rousing brass in its runaway finale.
With evocations of everything from Middle Eastern languor and mysterious night music to bluesy Gershwin, Bartok is the ultimate orchestral magician, surprising and delighting us all with the limitless array of colours and adventures drawn from his bottomless musical hat.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra — Power & Brilliance
Where: Auckland Town Hall