Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Light & Shade concert may have been a mite on the light side for some tastes, although there was ample compensation in the exquisite shading and nuance contributed by conductor Giordano Bellincampi.
This was a programme that spoke up for the minor masters — the fastidious and stylish Frenchman Jacques Ibert and the Italian Ottorino Respighi, whose spectacular Technicolour orchestrations were lavished on music that pales alongside that of his contemporaries, Stravinsky and Bartok.
From the opening bars of Respighi's The Birds, Bellincampi revealed himself as especially simpatico to his fellow countryman. There was commendable crispness in the Baroque music that inspired the suite, and Respighi's ingenious representations of cooing, cawing, crowing and cuckoo-ing made for a diverting 20 minutes.
Later, Respighi's Church Windows was the ultimate grand finale. The stage was dominated by three large gongs that, once subtleties had been dispensed earlier in the piece, brought spectacular thunder to a grandiloquent vision of Pope Gregory, aided and abetted by blazing brass and the roar of the town hall organ.
However, in the wake of a particularly enthusiastic audience response, one couldn't but think back to the more delicate tinting of the work's first movement with woodwind, celesta and harp creating their own magical weave over a wafting 5/4 time signature.
Before this, we had been easily coaxed into the bewitching dream world of Ravel's Pavane by James Sommerville's spellbinding horn solo, marvelling at the almost physical swooping of lush strings, heightened by Bellincampi's razor-edge dynamics.
Melanie Lançon, stepping up from principal's desk to take the solo spot in Ibert's Flute Concerto, used a full, lustrous tone to search out the sometimes elusive lyricism of its central Andante, remarkably attuned to the subtly modulated shifts of her colleagues' ensemble.
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And when Ibert dispenses glitter in the outer movements, with one particular fiery cadenza, Lançon carried it all off with elegant and appropriate aplomb.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
Where: Auckland Town Hall.