Concert Review – Napier Civic Choir, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra and soloists – soprano Lilia Carpinelli, mezzo-soprano Catherine Pierard, tenor Declan Cudd and bass Alex Lee – Messiah by Handel, directed by José Aparicio. St Paul’s Church, Napier, Friday 15 December. Reviewed by Peter Williams
José Aparicio directed the performance with consummate skill, drawing the very best from all the musicians under his control. There was a great sense of immediacy as the performance moved effortlessly through all its stages, communicating the essential emotional grandeur inherent in the music to the whole audience. The choir was in fine voice with balanced part–singing and finely shaped continuous lines in the contrapuntal choruses such as His yoke is easy, a sparkling performance of For unto us a child is born, magical expression in Since by man came death and a wonderful sense of climax in the final Amen chorus. Diction was excellent, the character of each chorus was clearly portrayed and the dynamic contrasts inherent in the music were vividly projected. Tenor Declan Cudd’s expressive phrase shaping in the recitative He was cut off, and the air But thou didst not leave his soul in hell, contrasted strongly with the quality of the declamation of Thou shalt break them, making these special moments in the performance. Bass Alex Lee gave a dramatic performance of Why do the nations? and maintained the long phrases in the Trumpet shall sound with apparent ease, in combination with Thomas Wilkinson’s brilliant playing of the solo trumpet part. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Pierard is a vastly experienced international soloist and this showed very clearly in her poignant singing of He was despised, with its dramatic middle section, and the free-flowing performance of O Thou that tellest. Lilia Carpinelli certainly made the most of wonderful soprano solos with a brilliant presentation of the group of recitatives near the start, an exuberant performance of Rejoice Greatly, and deeply expressive singing in I know that my redeemer liveth and If God be for us. The demanding orchestral accompaniment is a vital component of any Messiah performance. Led by violinist Stephanie Buzzard, the strings, with the strong underpinning of the cellos and basses together with the brilliant contributions from the oboes, trumpets and timpani, enhanced all that the singers’ performances. The playing was always stylish with the harpsichord, cello, chamber organ and theorbo accompaniment for the recitatives a special feature of the whole performance. The reason for prolonged, rapturous standing ovation at the end, was easy to understand given the exceptional quality of the performance – certainly one of the finest heard here in a long time.
Concert Review – The Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Leader Stephanie Buzzard, directed by José Aparicio. Soloists – flautist Dana Parkhill and harpist Madeleine Crump, music by Mozart and Beethoven. St Paul’s Church, Napier, Saturday 16 December. Reviewed by Peter Williams
This concert fitted perfectly between the two performances of Handel’s Messiah by the Napier Civic Choir, using many of the same players as involved in the oratorio performances – three performances which would certainly have called upon all the reserves of stamina of both players and conductor.
The audience was totally absorbed in the performance of the unique Mozart Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299 with its never ending stream of solos and duets, interspersed with the stylish playing of the orchestra. It was a truly magical performance which, at the end, had the audience on its feet in a prolonged standing ovation. The playing certainly captured all the elegance with which Mozart imbues the music. Dana Parkhill controls her flute superbly, projecting an endless stream of melody, complemented by Madeleine Crump’s control of the intricacies of the harp, all highlighted in the cadenza in each movement, each prepared for perfectly by the sensitive playing of the orchestra.
There was a symphony programmed each side of the Concerto. Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D major, K.297, “Paris” made a sparkling opening to the programme, even though the boisterous opening bars sounded somewhat untidy. Mozart was a superb craftsman who used the resources of the orchestra to maximum effect and there was plenty of well controlled playing in all three movements – clearly defined changes in dynamics in the first movement, elegantly shaped phrases in the Andante movement and a well-developed fugato passage in the final movement.
Mozart added much to the development of symphonic form but it was in the hands of Beethoven that the summation came, shown in the impressive playing of his Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 where the fuller instrumentation provides the means for the widest range of expression.
This was certainly an impressive performance where the conductor used all his exceptional musicianship to fully exploit all the dramatic possibilities of the music – the style of the unusual introductions to the first and fourth movements, the lovely cantabile feel to the second movement, the full realisation of the Scherzo style of the third movement and the great sense of climax generated in the final Allegro molto e vivace movement – all creating an authentic Beethoven performance to end a memorable concert.
Again, Thomas Wilkinson’s excellent programme notes will have added to the audience’s enjoyment of both the choral and orchestral concerts.
Concert Review – Napier Civic Choir, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, soprano Lilia Carpinelli and tenor Matthew Reardon, conducted by José Aparicio, – Last Night of the Proms- St John’s Cathedral, Napier, Friday 27 October – Reviewed by Peter Williams.
This iconic pattern of the last night of the annual Henry Wood Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, London, has transported easily to the furthest reaches of the English-speaking world – admirably proved in the gaily flag bedecked Cathedral for the large audience who reveled more and more as the evening progressed.
Music Director José Aparicio had a ball as he guided all the musicians through a complex range of music, and easily involved everyone present in the traditional songs at the climax of the programme. The audience were willingly on their feet to join with the choir and soloists in the traditional songs – Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and finally God Save the Queen. They obviously loved it all and the audience and all the musicians together made a mighty sound.
Choir, soloists and orchestra all contributed to the early part of the programme with the large orchestra of close to sixty players the busiest, as they played separate items and provided all the accompaniments.
Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture Op 96 made the ideal start to the programme, with later a spectacular performance of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op 46 No 8 with its explosive opening and the lovely wind playing in the quieter middle section. A poignant moment was when José Aparicio introduced the orchestral item Pasodoble, composed by his father. The orchestra gave excellent support to both the choir and soloists but sometimes
the brass and percussion unfortunately completely overshadowed the singing.
The choir was in fine voice, combining with the soloists in several items and impressing with the expressiveness of their singing of the chorus from Verdi’s Nabucco, the Russian language in the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin, the raw emotion expressed in the chorus from Orff’s Carmina Burana and they certainly let rip in the traditional songs at the end.
Soprano Lilia Carpinelli and tenor Matthew Reardon provided plenty of outstanding highlights – in the Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata and the eloquently poised presentation of the love duet from Pucini’s Madam Butterfly. The brilliance of the coloratura runs in Carpinelli’s singing, such as in Una voce poco fa from The Barber of Seville by Rossini, completely captivated the audience. The clear, flowing tone Reardon projected in his singing, particularly in Donizetti’s Una furtive lagrima, brought the arias brilliantly to life.
I feel sure that the word was quickly spread, resulting in an even larger audience for the repeat performance two days later.
Concert Review – Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Leader Stephanie Buzzard, soprano soloist Anna Pierard, St John’s Cathedral, Napier, Saturday 28 October. Music by de Falla, Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov. Reviewed by Peter Williams
Music by a Spanish composer, conducted by a compatriot, made the right start for this exotic programme.
The two Three Cornered Hat Suites by de Falla are music from the ballet of the same name. The title refers to the shape of the hat worn by the lascivious magistrate – El Corregidor, the subject of the second dance from the first Suite.
Percussion and brass gave an emphatic start to the item, followed by playing which always projected the character of Spanish music – intense rhythmic exactitude, vivid contrasts of orchestral colour, and the playing of solo and groups of instruments interacting within the music. José Aparicio certainly knew what was required and it was fascinating to observe his skill in direction. The final movement, where El Corregidor gets his comeuppance, made a brilliant conclusion to the item.
The legendary collection of Arabian folk tales, One Thousand and One Nights, was the genesis for two versions of Scheherazade – first the song-cycle by French composer Maurice Ravel and secondly the expansive orchestral version by Russian Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Both are masterworks by composers who were each regarded as a master of his craft.
Soprano Anna Pierard gave a consummate performance of the song-cycle where the purity of tone, the range covering every possible delicate nuance of expression and her complete involvement in the story being told, made this a performance to treasure. While the orchestra was too strong for the soloist at moments of climax in the first song, the playing always captured the spirit of the music and Dana Parkhill’s flute playing in the second song, The Magic Flute, was absolutely enchanting,
The Rimsky-Korsakov version is very well known, as the Princess Scheherazade, represented by the eloquent solo violin playing from Orchestra Leader Stephanie Buzzard, and complemented by the haunting sounds of the harp played by Madeleine Crump, tells the stories which bewitch the cruel Sultan who each night kills one of his wives. From the start, the playing of each of the four movements held the audience entranced as they listened to an ever-evolving range of vivid orchestral sound, with a plethora of individual and group contributions from throughout the orchestra.
With the demands of the Last Night of the Proms performances, as well as this extensive programme, Aparicio and all the members of the orchestra have every right to be delighted with what they have achieved. The rapturous standing ovation at the end clearly showed the delight of the audience.