"I can't complain," says Natalia Lomeiko, reeling off a breathless 30-second account of the past few months, from recording projects to a professorial appointment at the Royal College of Music. "And life just keeps getting more interesting."

Russian-born Lomeiko, best known for winning the 2003 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, returns from London to play Berg with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra on Thursday. Challenges, she says, do not come much bigger.

"I've always wanted to play this one and just needed this concert to seal the deal," she laughs.

When the Concerto was premiered in 1936, Elliott Carter hailed it as "not only one of Alban Berg's best but one of the best of our time". The American stressed its tender emotionalism, as well as the strong Bach connections that make it an inspired choice in the third and final of the APO's Inspired by Bach concerts.

For Lomeiko, Berg's work is "unusual because it is so symphonic.

"Unlike in some other concertos, the violin is very much a part of the whole score," she says.

One of the benefits of Lomeiko's regular guest gigs leading orchestras from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe to the Royal Philharmonic has been enabling her "to pace myself more symphonically ... When you're in the concertmaster's seat you see the whole picture differently. And I feel it has brought more scale and breadth to my playing."

Lomeiko is bemused by the fact that Berg loosened up his 12-note musical style by asking violinist Louis Krasner, who commissioned the concerto, to walk around the house improvising while the composer was working.

Does she include improv among her many activities?

"Only when I do exercises."

She does admit, however, to being a bit of a jazz buff and is reading a biography of French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.

She is struck by how "versatile and warm his playing is. There are no superfluous notes ... He's refined the sound so beautifully that it's perfect".

If Grappelli has such a distinctive sound, how does she feel about violinists in her own classical field?

"That's a big question," she says. "The further we go back the more recognisable they are, to be sure; Oistrakh, Menuhin and of course Jascha Heifetz, who was unique.

"Now it's difficult, even with the top players, to recognise who it is."

Lomeiko's philosophy as an artist is in line with her approach as a teacher. "There is no set of rules for all students.

"Some have certain problems but will also have something really good which they should rely on for confidence while they develop other areas.

"But, in the end," she says, "the main thing is that they play from the heart and it is musically convincing."

Performance
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Where and when: Auckland Town Hall, Thursday at 8pm