What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart
Kodaly's Dances of Galanta was an ebullient launchpad for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Enduring Spirit concert, a joyous medley of Hungarian folk tunes to welcome returning music director Giordano Bellincampi.
One sensed the maestro's utter elation as his musicians artfully navigated all the zigzagging shifts of mood and lit up Kodaly's dazzling orchestration, with particularly ear-wooing clarinet from Jonathan Cohen.
Shostakovich's 1967 Second Violin Concerto is not as frequently programmed as his first, but they are close musical siblings in their portrayal of Russia suffering under Soviet oppression.
Soloist Natalia Lomeiko caught the cagey stalk of its first movement and the grim fury of its finale to perfection. Her collegial interactions with musicians around her reminded me that many would have been on this stage in 2003 when she won the Michael Hill International Violin Prize.
The heart of this concerto is its central Adagio in which her violin's burnished, expressive tone evoked the emotional warmth and richness of Brahms. Again, the orchestral weave was immaculately measured by Bellincampi, with Lomeiko's short and forthright cadenza alerting us to further fire ahead in the finale's big solo turn.
Ysaye's Second Sonata, dashingly delivered, was a shrewd encore, its dramatic and unpredictable veering between Bach and plainchant linking the volatile worlds of Shostakovich and Nielsen to come.
Maestro Bellincampi has long been a proponent of Carl Nielsen's symphonies and tonight, the Fourth proved an electrifying experience, the shattering blast of its opening pages well justifying its "Inextinguishable" moniker.
This profound 1916 score responds to the horrors of World War I with optimism, in a language that may connect with contemporaries Mahler and Sibelius, yet is very much Nielsen's own.
Many thrilling orchestral storms came and went, separated by moments of cool woodwind grace and a heartrending Adagio, until we were treated to the climax to end all climaxes — a timpani duel of thunderous proportions, dispensed with gladiatorial heft by Steven Logan and Shane Currey.