The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra made its penultimate 2021 Auckland appearance with two very different concerts.
Friday evening belonged to Nga Hihi o Matariki, Gareth Farr's "symphonic" celebration of Matariki.
It was indeed sonically spectacular, but would one expect anything less from this composer, as we were summoned into his domain by the clang of metallophones and mysterious gamelan-like enticement?
Equally spectacular were soloists Mere Boynton and Ariana Tikao although, for me, their extensive waiata proved more mysterious than necessary.
A staunchly bilingual programme booklet informed us that the te reo Māori lyrics would somehow be "transmitted to those who are open and alive to the experience". Despite Boynton's magisterial vocalising and Tikao's beguiling taonga puoro, I would have appreciated subtitles.
Farr's music, extending to just under an hour, had a lot to do and, despite the composer's deft musical paintbrush, it was too discursive, needing more translucency and tang, rather than soaring strings.
If there were a unifying presence in all of this, then it was conductor Gemma New, a diminutive powerhouse, with ponytail swinging and arms shooting in all directions, as if choreographed.
Dance was at the heart of Saturday night's The Rite of Spring concert, with New incisively evoking the visceral thrill of Stravinsky's seminal score.
However, we didn't need Nocturnal's distracting big screen visuals, irritatingly unsynchronised at times; most of us have moved on from Disney's Fantasia.
In a real curatorial coup, Michael Houstoun opened the evening with a selection of Chopin piano pieces that had been orchestrated as the ballet Les Sylphides which, as it happens, was the opener for Stravinsky's Rite back in 1913.
In Houstoun's hands, waltzes sparkled as if we were in a Parisian salon, while earthier mazurkas reminded us of Chopin's Polish roots. And was the pianist slyly hinting that The Rite of Spring was on its way when he gave us the gently jiving rhythms of a Chopin nouvelle etude as encore?
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Friday, Saturday.