Monday, November 17, 2014

NZ Herald Classical review: Auckland Choral, Town Hall

What: Waves Upon Waves
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Saturday 15 November 2014

Review by: William Dart, Monday 17 November

Auckland Choral's Waves upon Waves certainly benefited from one of the most imaginative programme covers of the season.

The subtle undulating blues of Elizabeth Thomson's Kermadec image lifted my spirits from time to time during the concert's rather taxing first half.

The Reinhard Flatischler and Johnny Bertl work that provided a title for the evening made lofty promises; among other things, it was going to reach our mental, emotional and motoric realms and establish rhythm as a mirror for deeper thought. It certainly won over the audience with its sonic spectacle.

Flatischler and Bertl were kept busy at their multicultural percussion station while Uwe Grodd drew the very best from Auckland Choral and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

However, at just under half an hour, it was too long. It was also too fragmented, meshing easy minimalism with almost unctuously tonal writing, soaring at one point into a theme perilously close to Edith Piaf's Hymne a l'amour.

Call me prosaic but, in among the hundreds of words of high-flown philosophy, I would have welcomed a simple explanation of the Takatina Gamala chanted by the choristers.

Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony brought in soloists and singers from City Choir Dunedin for an impressive choral contingent.

This 1910 score, the first totally choral symphony, is a major piece. Uwe Grodd was clearly aware of its significance and ensured that its iconic opening, Behold, the sea itself surged through the hall.

A Sea Symphony is very much part of the 19-century English oratorio tradition; recurring Elgarian sweeps, stirringly delivered, reminded me of last year's fine Dream of Gerontius.

David Griffiths, singing from the heart with his customary intelligence, did not always illuminate Walt Whitman's words with the vibrancy required.

Like soprano soloist Ursula Langmayr, his voice was sometimes submerged in the orchestral tide.

Both were at their most effective in the last movement, finding the personal in Whitman's universal.

The line "O soul thou pleasest me, I thee", was beautifully woven through solo strings and cool woodwind, with Langmayr's glorious top G proudly floating over a magical orchestral shimmer.

No comments: