Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vibrant, dedicated and enthusiastic musical triumph

Standing ovation for Messiah 2017. Photo credit Ian Thomson
Handel's Messiah
Tuesday 12 December 2017
Dunedin Town Hall

Although originally written as pre-Easter music, it has become traditional for the approach of Christmas to be heralded worldwide by performances of Handel’s majestic oratorio Messiah, writes Elizabeth Bouman. City Choir Dunedin, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and their guest soloists with musical direction from David Burchell, thrilled last evening with a full performance of the English-language Baroque oratorio which was first performed in Dublin in 1742 and has now become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

Dunedin’s performance last evening was a triumph, vibrant and well-paced, full of enthusiasm and dedication to delivering text and score.

The choir’s big choruses, (some performed without reading the score) such as Glory to God in the Highest, And the Glory and, of course, the Hallelujah achieved excellent balance of harmony and articulation, and the dynamic contrast in Since by Man Came Death was outstanding.

Madeleine Pierard (currently home from London) filled the hall with soprano strength and confidence for all her solo work.

Mezzo-soprano Claire Barton (Dunedin) possesses strong alto timbre, and her performance of He Was Despised, interpreted with passion and solemnity, was superb.

Tenor Ian Tetley (UK) achieved smooth almost counter-tenor-like tone in his upper register at times, especially in Comfort Ye, and his neat ornamentation also impressed.

Bass Jared Holt (Wellington) has a deep rich vibrato and like many with his voice type, had difficulty in clarity of definition in many of the melismatic passages Handel wrote for this part.

The orchestra showed precision and good articulation throughout, responding to Burchell’s command from his seat at the harpsichord.

It really was a magnificent occasion, rewarded by a very well-deserved standing ovation.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, ODT 13 December 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Messiah - The World's Most Loved Choral Work

Handel's Messiah

Tue 12 December 7:30 pm
Dunedin Town Hall


SOLOISTS: soprano Madeleine Pierard, alto Claire Barton, tenor Iain Tetley, bass Jared Holt
Messiah is heard around the world during the Christmas season, being greatly appreciated, admired and enjoyed. City Choir Dunedin with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Burchell, is pleased to again perform this oratorio. Together with our soloists, soprano Madeleine Pierard, alto Claire Barton, tenor Iain Tetley and bass Jared Holt, we will provide a fantastic opportunity for you to experience a world-class delivery of this dramatic and passionate work.

Handel began composing Messiah on August 22, 1741, and completed it twenty-four days later. The scholar Clifford Bartlett writes, “such speed was not unusual, nor was the time of year. Not much happened in London during the summer, so it was a good time to get ahead with the preparation for the next season . . . Bach could produce a cantata, organizing the copying of parts, and rehearse and perform it every week: Three weeks to compose an oratorio without the immediate responsibility for organizing the performance was, therefore, ample. But, however hasty the composition, the power of the musical imagination, the wealth of ideas, the depth of inspiration, and the sheer variety of invention continue to astonish.”

Messiah is unique among Handel's oratorios in its New Testament subject and reflective treatment. It has been described as a 'collection' taken from the Bible and the Prayer Book Psalter, and is a mixture of narrative and commentary. This freed Handel from some of the more restrictive opera conventions and permitted greater use of the chorus than is generally the case in his other oratorios. Messiah is probably Handel's most famous work and its ubiquity has outreached anything Handel could ever have envisaged.