Thursday, December 12, 2019

Pre-Christmas tradition at town hall - hallelujah!

Handel's Messiah
Tuesday 10 December 2019, Dunedin Town Hall

On Tuesday evening, the Dunedin Town Hall resounded with music of one of the best-known oratorios. Messiah by George Frederik Handel.

In recent years Messiah has become a two-yearly Dunedin pre-Christmas event, performed by the Dunedin City Choir and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

The three-hour performance seems to have retained its popularity -- this year's good-sized supporting audience reacted with standing ovation, prolonged applause and "Bravos".

David Burchell conducted from the harpsichord, producing a brilliant overall performance. The choir of 120 achieved excellent standards in their big choruses, two of which ('Lift up your heads' and 'Since by man came death') were memorised, and exceptional balance and beauty of tone were achieved in 'And with his stripes we are healed'.

The tenors excelled in some of their scalic runs, and soprano top register notes were strong and true.

Following the overture, tenor Andrew Grenon opened Part One, achieving relaxed but strong and convincing recitativo with fluency in 'Comfort ye'.

Soprano soloist Rebecca Ryan generated a big, beautiful sound and delivered with melismatic precision and stunning ornamentation. A highlight was her 'I know that my redeemer liveth'. 

Tessa Romano was considerably "under-weight" in her alto solos despite fine melodic decoration and clarity of text.

However, a strong, authoritative style came from bass Joel Amosa, with well-paced scalic shaping and embellishments, not always easy for a bass voice, and I'm sure he wished Handel had not chosen a high E to climax 'The trumpet shall sound'.

The orchestra (led by Miranda Adams) was impressive, especially with string co-ordination of Baroque embellishments, and two trumpet players gilded everything superbly.

I followed the music on my well-worn 19th century family score, alongside a senior singing pupil who was enthralled by her first Messiah experience.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times 12 December 2019.

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