Auckland Choral's stirring presentation of Bach's St John Passion was compromised only by the problematic acoustics of Holy Trinity Cathedral.
From the opening Prologue, the strings of Pipers Sinfonia were reduced to a euphonious blur, as the choir invited us into this Gospel story of the ultimate spiritual transcendence.
Conductor Uwe Grodd, insisting upon the original German text, marshalled ranks of choristers with his usual authority, especially in dramatic outbursts throughout the ongoing narrative.
The work's many chorales, punctuation points as well as moments of reflection, were powerfully rendered, even when broken into isolated phrases during an aria by an impressive David Greco.
Could one imagine a more compelling Evangelist than Christopher Bowen? The tenor's recitatives were beautifully paced and incisively pointed, occasioning memorable interchanges with Greco's moving Pilate and some effective contrast with the weary eloquence of Barry Mora's Jesus.
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If Marlena Devoe didn't always seem comfortable with Bach's sometimes tortuous lines, then Sarah Court was on home ground. The mezzo's innate musicality stamped every note and phrase with a rightness and inevitability.
Tenor Henry Choo also understood this composer's demands, especially in that fine aria, contemplating the scourged Christ, a vision of tragic beauty that would have been heartrending if the accompanying violas d'amore had been a little sweeter.
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Holy Trinity Cathedral
Reviewer: William Dart