Monday, March 25, 2024

Passion still enthralling after 300 years

Bach's St John Passion

City Choir Dunedin, Dunedin Town Hall
Sunday 24 March 2024

Bach wrote the St John Passion in 1724, and for 300 years audiences have been enthralled by the enormity and poignancy of this work. Yesterday afternoon, an average-sized Dunedin audience had the thrill of hearing this work performed by City Choir Dunedin and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra conducted confidently by David Burchell.

From the opening chorus it was obvious that the choir was in fine form. Entries were secure, tone was well-supported and voice parts were well-balanced. This continued throughout; the choir alternating between reflective chorales, choruses, and crowd interjections which produced some electrifying moments. However, the German diction needed greater clarity.

The Evangelist, Iain Tetley, bears the responsibility of delivering the story. Tetley did this admirably varying tone colour and tempo to the mood.

In the role of Christ, Patrick Shanahan has the appropriate vocal timbre and sang with good resonance. However, his lack of eye contact and dramatic body language tended to diminish the interpretation of this role.

The four soloists were well matched.

Caroline Burchell’s clear soprano voice filled the auditorium well and she sang with a good understanding of baroque style.

Maaike Christie-Beekman’s first aria was somewhat overwhelmed by the obbligato instruments, but her second aria Es ist Vollbracht was passionately sung from memory. This was a real highlight.

Lila Crichton has a warm timbre to his voice matching the arias well.

Bass, James Harrison, who sang the role of Pilate, as well as the bass arias, was dramatic, convincing and powerful.

The support of the orchestra was unwavering, with the obbligato outstanding. David Murray (cello) and John van Buskirk (organ) accompanied the recitatives fluently, with Burchell conducting arias from the harpsichord.

All in all, a moving performance.

Review by Judy Bellingham, Otago Daily Times 25 March 2024

No comments: