It was an exhilarating launch for both the Auckland Arts Festival's classical programme and Chamber Music New Zealand's upcoming season. In 90 minutes, the 11 stylish musicians of L'Arpeggiata laid out a baroque musical banquet spiced with the tastiest jazz flavourings.
Christina Pluhar's theorbo may have caught the eye, as she played her central role in sustaining Purcell's many bass lines, but it was Doron Sherwin's freewheeling and virtuoso cornetto solos that first captured the ear.
The balance between old and new was expertly achieved, although the jazz trio of pianist Francesco Turrisi, saxophonist Gianluigi Trovesi and drummer Sergey Saprychev did slightly dominate and delightfully so in moody introductions to Purcell's melancholy songs, exquisitely delivered by Celine Scheen.
One did miss the immaculate English of a soprano like Emma Kirby with Scheen's singing, as one did throughout Vincenzo Capezzuto's lively alto solos, although this did not detract from the ironic humour of his "Man is for woman made" or a particularly merry final duet.
L'Arpeggiata has a winner of a programme here, deftly paced to include crowd-pleasing party turns, from a juggling drummer to the sprightly Capezzuto whirling like a dervish.
Best of all was the encore, introduced by the uber-cool Turrisi, tambourine in hand. Riotous fun ensued with a rapping Sherwin neatly summing up the evening as "Henry Purcell with a little back beat."
What: Auckland Arts Festival - L'Arpeggiata
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart