Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s Might & Majesty delivered more than its title promised. With Giordano Bellincampi at the helm, we were treated to everything from rollicking good fun to the most tender of romantic sentiments.
Weber’s Euryanthe overture was a spirited launch. Bellincampi took no prisoners with his crisp pacing. Strings raced over pumping brass and woodwind; obsessive dotted rhythms threatened to mesmerise. Yet boisterousness did not rule; a radiant Largo interlude for eight violins, shaded with viola shimmer, was appropriately finessed.
Bruch’s First Violin Concerto is the sort of reliable repertoire that can so easily disappoint – not so tonight with soloist Benjamin Beilman, soaring over the orchestra with his 1709 Engleman Stradivarius.
From the start, Beilman asserted himself with precision and poetry. Spinning difficult passagework with effortless delicacy, his lyrical moments hinted at the concerto’s Adagio which glowed with the intimacy of the finest chamber music playing.
The volatility and verve of his performance made for an electrifying finale. As an encore, Bach’s Gavotte en Rondeau was played with such lightness and capriciousness that Beilman might have been improvising it himself, perhaps for an imaginary dancer.
Bach would return after interval with his Ricercar from The Musical Offering, arranged by Anton Webern. Unusually orchestrated, with tone colours changing sometimes note by note, it seemed to have a new luminosity tonight. Perhaps the conductor had urged musicians to give particular attention to the quality of their sound, ensuring all the time that subtle tempo fluctuations transport us into this new and mysterious world.
I have always found Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony a rather dull affair. But tonight, with a beaming Bellincampi so completely immersed in bringing it to life, how could one hold on to such a bias? Massed strings stirred up new passions in its first movement and a bland Andante seemed considerably less so, thanks to the intensity of its rendition; and Mendelssohn’s grand finale certainly added monumental to an evening of might and majesty.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
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Where: Auckland Town Hall