Concert by the Napier Civic Choir
Directed by Jose Aparicio
Accompanied by the Hawke's Bay Orchestra, leader Stephanie Buzzard
St John's Cathedral, Napier, Friday, July 1
Music by Schubert, Wagner and Mozart
Reviewed by Peter Williams
Schubert certainly knew how to write music for singers - he wrote more than 600 wonderful songs in his short lifetime - and this was clearly shown in his brief Stabat Mater in G minor, D 175 opening the programme, an example of liturgical music within the Catholic Church.
It is a sombre work relating to the crucifixion of Christ and the choir gave full rein to the expressive possibilities of the music, with a rich, sonorous sound.
The orchestral accompaniment, while sometimes too heavy, certainly emphasised the drama of the music.
Lisa Harper-Brown is a consummate soprano soloist. Her singing of the Wesendonck Lieder, WWV 91 by Schubert was impeccable, with a range of expression that perfectly captured the character of each of the five contrasted songs.
There were splendid moments of climax throughout the performance while the final Dreams made a serene ending to the set.
In the expansive accompaniment the orchestra matched the soloist splendidly - a lovely oboe solo in the second song, Be Still, with a beautifully played postlude here.
The Great Mass in C minor, K. 427, one of composer Mozart's finest choral works, is certainly a grand affair - while incomplete, it is still too big for normal liturgical use but is fine in a concert setting.
There are many moments of climax and high drama which the choir easily achieved - such as at the start of the Credo - under Jose Aparicio's expert and precise direction, and his assured musicianship was certainly evident.
The extended fugal section in the Credo was impressive and well balanced across all four parts, there was a brilliance to the sound in the Sanctus and a powerful close to the final movement, the Benedictus.
Four soloists - sopranos Carleen Ebbs and Lisa Harper-Brown, tenor Declan Cudd and bass Joe Christensen - were well-matched and a highlight of the performance was when they were heard together at the start of the Benedictus.
There were major soaring parts for the soprano soloists - a brilliant, clear, opening in the Kyrie from Carleen Ebbs and an extended solo in the Credo, and strongly projected singing from Lisa Harper-Brown in the Gloria, plus an exciting duet, and then a trio with the tenor.
The orchestra gave excellent support with examples of fine solo playing, but again the accompaniment was sometimes too strong for the singers.