What: Bach Musica NZ
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart
Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers, originally scheduled to be the grand finale of Bach Musica NZ's 2020 season, turned out to be their first and last concert of the year.
Not that this detracted from the splendour of the occasion, with Rita Paczian inspiring soloists, choir and orchestra to a rousing account of this monumental score.
From the start, we suspected something special was afoot, when Michael Stoddart summoned the grandiloquence of another, later age from the town hall organ, in the roaring storms of a Widor Allegro.
But once Paczian made her entrance, we were securely back in the baroque, with the opening blasts of primal D major juxtaposed with graceful dancing interludes catching the very heart of Monteverdi's unique genius.
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Paczian guided her choristers with precision through shifting metres and rhythms that inject a sort of 17th-century jazziness into old school renaissance calm. Monteverdi is not hailed as the father of modern music for nothing.
Eight vocal soloists acquitted themselves admirably although they would have been better placed in front of rather than behind the orchestra.
Sopranos Amelia Berry and Jayne Tankersley made a dulcet duet of Pulchra es while Andrew Grenon offered a stirring Nigra sum.
The final movement is a full-scale Magnificat, hailed as one of the most kaleidoscopic and opulent settings of its time.
These 20 minutes, with their radical shifts of style and personnel, summed up the strengths and imaginative artistry of Sunday night's performance.
Particularly memorable were James Harrison and Thomas Roeshol duetting against the finely chiselled flutterings of violinists Miranda Hutton and Marko Pop-Ristov, and a flamboyant Gloria from the two tenors, which Grenon moving forward to the front of the stage, while his lines were beautifully echoed by Iain Tetley from up on high.
Appropriately the choir had the last and magnificent sing, a tinge of minor in Monteverdi's penultimate chord, expressing, perhaps, the regrets of many that the evening had come to a close.