The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Beethoven Festival came to a predictably rousing choral conclusion.
Was it just nine months ago that the orchestra signed off its 2018 season with this Choral Symphony, featuring the same conductor and choir as well as two of the four soloists featured in the festival?
With this finale sold out weeks in advance, might this mammoth work have the potential to become an annual institution, one wonders, a symphonic alternative to Messiah? Facetiousness aside, this Ninth Symphony sat well alongside its predecessor, the resolutely cheery Eighth, written during just four months in 1812.
Maestro Edo de Waart invested this score with real character. If the opening Allegro vivace was on the sedate side, this made for increased punching power in musical arguments; a particularly assertive finale brought with it a full-force Beethovian fury
The only disappointment came with the laissez-faire policy of allowing late-comers to file in to the ironic accompaniment of the second movement's perky march.
Beethoven laboured over his final symphony for some years before its 1824 premiere, resulting in a score of visionary proportions. Here, we felt its full weight and stature. The tensile energy of the great first movement was electrifying and de Waart affirmed its Adagio as one of Beethoven's most spiritually uplifting slow movements.
Inevitably, this symphony is judged by its choral finale and here there were major rewards. Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, dramatically spaced out to fill the choir stalls, was magnificent, the men in striding good form, the sopranos fearless and unerring above the stave.
The four soloists — Sabina Cvilak, Kristin Darragh, Oliver Johnston and Anthony Robin Schneider — worked well together. The two New Zealanders, returning from last year, were excellent, Schneider greeting us with full-voiced and irresistible confidence.
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What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Beethoven Festival (Joy)
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by: William Dart