The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra welcomed us to this year's New Zealand Herald Premier series on Thursday night with an adrenalin-spiked aperitif. Conductor Garry Walker was a fearless driver for a four-minute zoom through John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
Orchestrally, it was a brilliant workout, as colours shimmered and shifted around Eric Renick's deadpan, metronomic woodblock.
The centrepiece of the evening, Ross Harris' Violin Concerto, was courageous programming; an appreciated gesture to our country's composing community, rewarded with a near full house.
This is not an easy work. In the first minute, one was tempted to bend forward to catch Ilya Gringolts' whispered solo fragments, before they were caught up in engaging dialogue with the APO woodwind.
With the entry of the strings, there was a sense of liberation, as the Russian effortlessly set his expansive lines aloft.
There is a tenacity to Harris' musical arguments here that is typical of the composer; conductor, orchestra and soloist positively relished the very symphonic thrust of this writing. There was no lessening of tension in the faster sections, either, marked by unfailingly idiomatic writing and an almost Stravinskian sense of propulsion.
After 20 minutes, a journey had been taken and resolution achieved, as Gringolts gave us his final exquisitely whispered gestures.
The cheering news is that, as well as being enjoyed by thousands throughout the country thanks to Radio New Zealand Concert's broadcast, this performance will eventually be available on CD.
After interval, tackling The Planets, Walker was just the man to show us how startling this score must have been when it appeared almost a century ago.
Holst's opening portrait of Mars brought us adrenalin once more, by the bucket, in great surging crescendos.
Before Jupiter's hearty, sing-a-long tune, we tasted enchantment in the serenity of the second movement, catching Venus, as the Bringer of Peace, its heavenly tranquillity only slightly lessened by intonation murmurs in the strings.
After the bristling scherzo of Uranus, there was more magic, mystery and mysticism in Neptune, with the women of Viva Voce displaying all the vocal allure one might expect of astrological sirens.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall