Review: Bach Musica, Auckland Town Hall

By William Dart

Soloist Patricia Wright.
Soloist Patricia Wright.

The return of Bach Musica to the Town Hall on Sunday was welcomed by its usual loyal audience, drawn by a diverse selection of 18th century music, ranging from a Mass by Bach's son-in-law to a Beethoven piano concerto.

While conductor Rita Paczian is to be applauded for searching out forgotten flowers of the Baroque era, Johann Christoph Altnickol's Mass in D minor proved to be a rather wilted affair.

Uninspired writing had one focusing more than one would have liked on stressed soprano tone in the Kyrie eleison; elsewhere, one wearied of plodding sequences and bass lines endlessly traipsing step by step to nowhere in particular.

Perhaps Altnickol found more inspiration in his soloists, for the writing is stronger in these pages.

Patricia Wright, Carmel Carroll, Iain Tetley and Joel Amosa made the most of what he had given them, with the young Amosa outstanding in a lyrical Quoniam tu solus sanctus.

The instrumental core of the evening was Beethoven's C major Piano Concerto, one of the composer's most winning scores. Here is the perfect balance between a serious but smiling first movement, a heartrending Largo and a delicious scamper of a Finale.

Paczian introduced soloist Eddie Giffney with some of the most elegant playing of the evening and, throughout, the young pianist impressed with the unhurried ease and precision of his performance, especially in the fantasia-like cadenza of the first movement.

After interval the challenge of Mozart's Requiem was met most creditably. Paczian has a fine ear for the drama of this work. There was a real sense of choral momentum. Sometimes, it was a matter of tempo, as in a thrilling Dies Irae, not without a few almost melodramatic flourishes.

Elsewhere, in the Exaudi orationem meam and some of the lively fugal passages, it was more a case of purposefulness and the conductor's strong sense of structure.

Wright was the first soloist, with a beautifully measured Te decet hymnus. She also presided over some memorable quartet singing in the Recordare, which included the welcome debut of young Tongan tenor Kaulani Pouvalu.

- NZ Herald

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