Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra rounded off its main town hall season with a diverting night in Vienna, pairing orchestral works and songs by Schubert and Mahler.

Giordano Bellincampi is a conductor who physically conveys the sheer joy of music-making from the podium. With Schubert's rarely-heard Third Symphony, one saw as well as heard that this was a score close to his heart.

It was a celebration of unfettered youth; a teenage composer flexing lean muscles, Adagio maestoso, and eventually, by the finale, daring us to an impetuous runaway dance. The orchestra's woodwind was very much part of the merry-making, from rather jolly, yodel-style clarinet tunes to a whimsical waltz for oboe and bassoon.

Closing the concert, Mahler's Totenfeier drew on the full resources of the APO to fire its massive funeral march.

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Bellincampi explored the Mahlerian world to its outer limits; lower strings delivered edgy terror, brass added sonorous support and woodwind ghostly echoings; creating a volatility summarised by a final page that fell from triple forte to triple piano in just two bars.

Thomas E. Bauer is a seasoned lieder singer. The German baritone infused four numbers from Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer with a rare subtlety, an intimacy only occasionally intruded upon by orchestral weight. Beautifully characterised, one sensed sunlight and passing clouds on an open-air stroll followed by the bitter agonies of heartbreak.

Bauer's singing was every bit as exquisite in six Schubert songs, culminating in an explosive Erlkonig. Fascinating as it was to enjoy Brahms' orchestration making a truly stormy ride to Hell in An Schwager Kronos, some songs needed the context of their original song-cycles and, in truth, are more effective with the composer's original piano accompaniments.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – Masters of Song
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by: William Dart