There were moments in Auckland Choral's Elijah when one could imagine the full Victorian splendour of Mendelssohn conducting his oratorio in 1846, with 396 musicians under his command.
With less than half that number, conductor Uwe Grodd still ignited an impressive conflagration of sound from his choristers, supported by Pipers Sinfonia and organist Michael Stoddart.
Four-square choral marches, just a few chords away from revivalist hymns, were sturdily effective, free from the blemishes of brass smudging and occasional loose ensemble elsewhere.
Martin Snell caught the humanity of his Old Testament hero, from the bass' stentorian launch of the evening to a particularly moving It is enough, with well-turned cello obbligato from Charles Brooks. Alison Dunlop's oboe, weaving through Jennifer Barrington's first aria caught my ear too, as did Melody Lin's flute, shading in the lyrical composure of Helen Medlyn's O rest in the Lord.
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Treble Jacob Siohane-Royle asserted an individual voice, advising Elijah and his people of imminent and welcome rain.
Tenor Martin Thomas Buckingham was unerring in his well-placed and paced recitatives, investing his first aria with a confidently heroic swing.
Elijah is a perplexing work, famously and wittily loathed by George Bernard Shaw; perhaps this performance, free of the Draconian cuts that marred its last town-hall appearance 10 years ago, suggests it is time for a reassessment.
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart