Solid performance as conductor again takes charge with sure hand, writes William Dart.

Uwe Grodd's introductions to Auckland Choral's annual Messiah are becoming as much of a tradition as the musical performances that follow them.

The conductor has a skill for forging connections.

In 2010, he noted the formation of our new Super City by announcing that we were to hear a Super Messiah, rendered just as Handel intended, without cuts.

Tonight, he took pride in telling us that this would be Auckland Choral's 97th consecutive presentation of the Handel oratorio.

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Grodd has a sure hand when it comes to pacing a score, thanks to brisk tempi and well-sprung rhythms, apparent from the first few bars of Pipers Sinfonia's Overture.

He enjoys putting the intimate alongside the spectacular; solo pieces featuring the liquid-toned chamber organ of Tim Noon contrasted with choruses in which the heft of John Wells' town hall organ created true Handelian grandeur.

Chorally, it was solid, even with sopranos being tested when lines moved above the stave. Hallelujah Chorus seemed more dramatic than ever when trumpeters and timpanist came on stage to add their brilliant descants and thundering underlay.

Marlena Devoe, the outstanding heroine of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor last year, seemed a little reserved with Handel. Nevertheless, her lustrous vocal tone in the work's final section compensated for ornamentation being kept to a minimum, apart from a radiant ascent to a top B flat to close the final aria.

Australian David Hamilton has for some decades been the tenor of choice with many of our choral societies. Listening to the intelligence and musicianship of his opening recitative and aria, one can hear why.

Yet here, and elsewhere later, one sensed a certain loss of vitality in tone, particularly evident on sustained notes.

Wendy Dawn Thompson last sang a Messiah with Auckland Choral in 2009 and delivered her moving mezzo arias with the same intensity.

Martin Snell similarly impressed and, once again, made a strong impact from his first recitative, showcasing a true bass voice, utterly confident with Handel's virtuoso demands. His The Trumpet Shall Sound showed a rare authority.

Review
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Monday.