Messiah, affirming that this was indeed a masterwork, regardless of race, b' />

Conductor Uwe Grodd introduced Auckland Choral's 157th season of Handel's Messiah, affirming that this was indeed a masterwork, regardless of race, background or religion.

As happened in 2010, we were to hear the oratorio as its composer intended, without the irritating omissions usually encountered, especially in its final section.

A sonorous, rhythmically alert Overture from Pipers Sinfonia augured well and the band responded to Handel's often ingenious writing with spirit and verve.

This year's Messiah also brought in new sounds. Not only did James Tibbles dispense his harpsichord continuo with customary eloquence but, in some numbers, Eddie Giffney joined him on a second instrument, to tantalising effect.


The plucked and dulcet tones of Stephen Pickett's theorbo were an apt and subtle accompaniment for many recitatives.

Chorally, there was still a sense of strain to be heard when sopranos found themselves in the upper reaches of the stave, but only in Behold the Lamb of God did the choristers lack conviction.

Yet Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs positively bloomed with Grodd's lively tempo, especially when organist John Wells underlined the horrors of Christ's Bruising.

Lauren Armishaw, a soprano with early music affiliations, moved from a sprightly Rejoice Greatly to a radiant I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, with embellishments of telling naturalness.

There were intense emotions at the core of He Was Despised, thanks to the ever musicianly Kate Spence, ornamenting the aria's refrain with infallible rightness.

American tenor Dana Wilson introduced himself confidently early on but Handel's later demands took their toll on his lightish voice, failing to convince in the treacherous trail through Behold and See.

Martin Snell's stirring bass contributions in 2010 will always be a hard act to follow, and David Griffiths was limited by his baritone range, with too many crucial notes not registering. For all this, Griffiths' The Trumpet Shall Sound was given out with authority, complete with fiery cadenza and a solid trumpet obbligato from Philip Lloyd.

Classical music review
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Monday.