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  • Writer's pictureNapier Civic Choir

Review for Handel's Messiah 2017

Updated: Jun 12, 2018

Messiah by Handel - directed by José Aparicio

St Paul’s Church, Napier, Friday 15 December 2017

Napier Civic Choir, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra and soloists

Soprano Lilia Carpinelli

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Pierard

Tenor Declan Cudd

Bass Alex Lee 

Reviewed by Peter Williams

José Aparicio directed the performance with consummate skill, drawing the very best from all the musicians under his control. There was a great sense of immediacy as the performance moved effortlessly through all its stages, communicating the essential emotional grandeur inherent in the music to the whole audience. The choir was in fine voice with balanced part–singing and finely shaped continuous lines in the contrapuntal choruses such as His yoke is easy, a sparkling performance of For unto us a child is born, magical expression in Since by man came death and a wonderful sense of climax in the final Amen chorus. Diction was excellent, the character of each chorus was clearly portrayed and the dynamic contrasts inherent in the music were vividly projected. Tenor Declan Cudd’s expressive phrase shaping in the recitative He was cut off, and the air But thou didst not leave his soul in hell, contrasted strongly with the quality of the declamation of Thou shalt break them, making these special moments in the performance. Bass Alex Lee gave a dramatic performance of Why do the nations? and maintained the long phrases in the Trumpet shall sound with apparent ease, in combination with Thomas Wilkinson’s brilliant playing of the solo trumpet part. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Pierard is a vastly experienced international soloist and this showed very clearly in her poignant singing of He was despised, with its dramatic middle section, and the free-flowing performance of O Thou that tellest. Lilia Carpinelli certainly made the most of wonderful soprano solos with a brilliant presentation of the group of recitatives near the start, an exuberant performance of Rejoice Greatly, and deeply expressive singing in I know that my redeemer liveth and If God be for us. The demanding orchestral accompaniment is a vital component of any Messiah performance. Led by violinist Stephanie Buzzard, the strings, with the strong underpinning of the cellos and basses together with the brilliant contributions from the oboes, trumpets and timpani, enhanced all that the singers’ performances. The playing was always stylish with the harpsichord, cello, chamber organ and theorbo accompaniment for the recitatives a special feature of the whole performance. The reason for prolonged, rapturous standing ovation at the end, was easy to understand given the exceptional quality of the performance – certainly one of the finest heard here in a long time.

Concert Review – The Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Leader Stephanie Buzzard, directed by José Aparicio. Soloists – flautist Dana Parkhill and harpist Madeleine Crump, music by Mozart and Beethoven. St Paul’s Church, Napier, Saturday 16 December. Reviewed by Peter Williams This concert fitted perfectly between the two performances of Handel’s Messiah by the Napier Civic Choir, using many of the same players as involved in the oratorio performances – three performances which would certainly have called upon all the reserves of stamina of both players and conductor. The audience was totally absorbed in the performance of the unique Mozart Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299 with its never ending stream of solos and duets, interspersed with the stylish playing of the orchestra. It was a truly magical performance which, at the end, had the audience on its feet in a prolonged standing ovation. The playing certainly captured all the elegance with which Mozart imbues the music. Dana Parkhill controls her flute superbly, projecting an endless stream of melody, complemented by Madeleine Crump’s control of the intricacies of the harp, all highlighted in the cadenza in each movement, each prepared for perfectly by the sensitive playing of the orchestra. There was a symphony programmed each side of the Concerto. Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D major, K.297, “Paris” made a sparkling opening to the programme, even though the boisterous opening bars sounded somewhat untidy. Mozart was a superb craftsman who used the resources of the orchestra to maximum effect and there was plenty of well controlled playing in all three movements – clearly defined changes in dynamics in the first movement, elegantly shaped phrases in the Andante movement and a well-developed fugato passage in the final movement. Mozart added much to the development of symphonic form but it was in the hands of Beethoven that the summation came, shown in the impressive playing of his Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 where the fuller instrumentation provides the means for the widest range of expression. This was certainly an impressive performance where the conductor used all his exceptional musicianship to fully exploit all the dramatic possibilities of the music – the style of the unusual introductions to the first and fourth movements, the lovely cantabile feel to the second movement, the full realisation of the Scherzo style of the third movement and the great sense of climax generated in the final Allegro molto e vivace movement – all creating an authentic Beethoven performance to end a memorable concert. Again, Thomas Wilkinson’s excellent programme notes will have added to the audience’s enjoyment of both the choral and orchestral concerts.

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