Image by: Hans Weichselbaum
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Bach Musica Puts Icing On The Cake

Where: Auckland Town Hall, NZ
When: 01 Dec 2019
Clare Martin

A fantastic programme from Vivaldi’s Gloria to Dvorak’s Te Deum crowned a great year of music from Rita Paczian and Bach Musica NZ in the Auckland Town Hall last night. Always interesting repertoire when you attend BM concerts, last night was especially shiny and guaranteed to please loyal fans and newcomers alike. And there should be more and more new fans for Bach Musica NZ with concerts and programmes of such consistently high quality.

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Alison Dunlop

Grabbing our attention straight off with J S Bach’s well-known Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D Minor, this was an alternative configuration to the usual duo violins. It gave the opportunity for two orchestral players to step into the solo limelight. Oboist Alison Dunlop delivered a flow of rich long phrases. Violinist Yanghe Yu gave lively warmth, particularly in the Allegro section. Perhaps a more spacious tempo in the Largo section would have given even more opportunity for the sonority between oboe and violin.

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Yanghe Yu

Vivaldi’s Gloria along with the Concerto in D Minor is a concert favourite and probably guarantees a percentage of ticket sales every time. The Laudamus Te duet between Kate Spence alto and Emma Roxburgh soprano was a total treat, it was Spence’s brandy plum to Roxburgh’s royal icing. Impeccably matched voices and ensemble with the orchestra. As the chorus sang “Gratias!” in the following section I agreed, grateful to hear sweet sounds to round off the year.

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Rita Paczian

Emma Roxburgh’s Domine Deus was sheer beauty and grace, her voice is perfectly suited to this Baroque repertoire. Dressed in Christmas red, alongside Kate Spence’s gold-embroidered attire and with the choir’s gold sparkle, it was quite a seasonal scene. Spence sang with depth and truth in the call and response with the choir in Agnus Dei. The Cum Sancto finale showed off spirited tone from the choir as well as some ringing notes from trumpeter Peter Reid set to glorious tone from Michael Stoddard on the organ.

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Martin Snell

An enjoyable interlude of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance after the interval didn’t quite lift into dance with a tempo that was on the slow side. But then, the magnificent voice of Martin Snell in Wagner’s Song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser. Despite asking to be forgiven for a throat virus, and although the role of Wolfram isn’t necessarily Snell’s repertoire, he gave a gorgeous performance of this aria. His voice is in peak form and purrs along like a deluxe engine at the hands of an expert driver. Interesting to hear Wagner played by a smaller band, under Paczian’s baton every detail was played with clarity and warmth with some lovely moments from harpist Yi Jin.

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The lesser-known Te Deum by Dvořák was the surprise cake in the hamper, what a fantastic piece. A blazing start from the choir certainly unleashed the angels from the rafters. Morag Atchison, soprano, dressed in fir tree sparkly green swept in to deliver some majestic phrases. Great orchestral shaping and colour here from Paczian and more great ensemble playing and Rita was almost dancing on the podium in the final Vivace section. Even if we lost the soloists in the brilliance of brass and the sparkle from the chorus in the ‘hallelujah’ section, it was all too exhilarating to mind.

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At the after-match function, Bach Musica NZ announced their 2020 plans and glasses were raised to toast twenty-five years of directorship by NZ Woman of the Year nominee Rita Paczian. A lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to in the New Year.

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More about Bach Musica NZ and the 2020 Calendar of Events can be found on

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Radio 13 thanks and credits Hans Weichselbaum for the images used in this article. 

Written By: Clare Martin Clare has performed as an opera, recital and oratorio artist in UK most notably the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London. In NZ she has performed with NZ Opera and with the NZ Symphony Orchestra but more recently she has moved into a wider range of contemporary genres including jazz and even Leonard Cohen. Since 2008 Clare has been teaching from her own music studio working with professional and beginner singers. In 2017 she was a mentor on TVNZ’s The Naked Choir working with a cappella choirs and she currently coaches barbershop and a woman’s ensemble.