Classical music is alive and kicking in Auckland! Rita Paczian’s conducting of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with Bach Musica choir and orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall left me buzzing with the pleasure of live classical music performed at it’s very best.
If you’re not a regular classical music aficionado, it may be that you don’t know Dvořák. Or it may be that you think ticket prices are prohibitive. Or perhaps you think you might be frowned upon by an older generation for daring to give it a try... Shame on me for starting with a triple negative, but let me debunk all three.
Dvořák lifts the soul, his Stabat Mater is a sacred work based on a thirteenth Latin mass... but don’t let that fool you, this is surging, soaring and emotive music that pierces one's heart. For a mere $25, or the price of five lattés, the experience will allow you the memorable joys of Dvořák at the Auckland Town Hall.
As for the audience, yes there was a fair sprinkling of grey hair at the concert... the older generation have been around long enough to know this is repertoire so worth venturing out for. However, at this particular event, I was heartened to see a wide range of ages from early teens and upwards.
But, back to the concert and I only have wonderful things to say. It was my first foray along to see Bach Musica. Again, shame on me. From the outset, conductor Rita Paczian commanded the orchestra and choir with physical precision and tender expressiveness. With the help of a beautiful honied tone from the leader of the orchestra Yanghe Yu on first violin, Ms Paczian led the performers through the full range of expression from intimate quiet piano to the full slew of forte sound. With so few bodies in the choir, I wondered how they would create a full Romantic choral sound, but with the first swell into forte I was convinced, here was a choir that could deliver and the choral section of Quando corpus morietur was stunning.
As for the solo voices, we were gifted five not just the usual four soloists. Simon Christie was recovering from a chest infection but sang the ensembles with a rich bass, allowing the surprise baritone Ben Kubiak to deliver the bass aria with a precocious and gorgeous tone... I hope I hear more of him. I’ve not had the pleasure to hear the tenor voice of Patrick Power for a fair few years and was delighted to hear a vigorous and ringing vocal delivery. Emma Sloman's soprano had a beautiful bell-like tone but perhaps not a big enough sound for Dvorak in the Great Hall. Mezzo Elisha Hulton gave a beautifully warm and nuanced version of Inflammatus et accensus.
But the star of the evening was Ms Paczian who drew the orchestra and choir together with depth and beauty. There is one more concert from this group later this year on Sat 2 December so I urge you to go along - it may be the key that unlocks classical music for you.
Radio 13 thanks and credits Peter Jennings for the use of his images in this article.