Rita Paczian and her Bach Musica NZ can be relied on for music from well off the familiar and well-beaten repertoire trails.
Its latest performance, with a judicious selection of Mendelssohn's choral works, ranging from the once popular Hear My Prayer to the composer's magnificent full-scale response to the powerful poetry of Psalm 42, more than justified the modest ticket price.
The first, sung in a later German translation, left one missing the familiar refrain of "O, for the wings of a dove." However, its sweet melody benefitted, as did the entire piece, from Stephanie Acraman's clear, fresh soprano, offsetting the sentimental tendencies of harmonies below.
She also led the choristers in a spirited cry to God that would have made more impact in its original language. Later on, Acraman impressed in her Bachian aria in Psalm 42, weaving elegant vocals around Alison Dunlop's shapely oboe.
If this performance, as a whole, suffered from issues of balance, there was no denying that Paczian ably caught Mendelssohn's shifting moods, from a broodingly romantic opening chorus to a finale that bristled with High Baroque splendour.
Verleih uns Frieden was a three-fold plea for peace, starting with the choir's bass section and closing sonorously with full choir. Its effective simplicity was perfectly graced by the intertwining obbligato cellos of Paul Mitchell and Sarah Spence.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel's solitary trumpet concerto is a delightful score, full of frisky fanfares in its outer movements with a meltingly beautiful Andante that almost rivals Mozart's notoriously tuneful "Elvira Madigan" Adagio.
It was disappointing that soloist Huw Dann, locked behind a music stand, did not do the work full justice. While Paczian urged her orchestra to get the most out of Hummel's sweeps and surges, Dann paid too little attention to shaping his lines. There were welcome flashes of virtuosity in the finale but they failed to eradicate memories of earlier split notes and too many easy options being taken.
What: Bach Musica NZ
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart