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

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