Beethoven Choral Symphony

Concert by the Napier Civic Choir, with the Hawke’s Bay Orchestra
Leader Stephanie Buzzard
Directed By Jose Aparicio
Beethoven Choral Symphony
St Paul’s Church, Napier
Saturday, October 18

At the end of this performance, the capacity audience was immediately on its feet with prolonged applause – appreciation for a concert that held its rapt attention from start to finish.
Here was certainly a first in Hawke’s Bay, the presentation of this unique orchestral irk, Beethoven’s Symphony No 9, Opus 125. Performances are rare for this monumental composition that set a new standard and influenced symphonic writing ever after. It is normally presented with the use of much larger instrumental and choral forces, and in more spacious venues – as was the case with the NZSO performances in Wellington and Auckland earlier this year. However, the audience at this concert would have revelled in the opportunity to hear this amazing work, familiar in recordings, now live, and expertly performed by a choir of 70 and a orchestra of 47 players.
Despite the fewer number of musicians, and in a much smaller crowded venue, this performance was every bit as exciting as that I heard in Auckland.
Napier Civic Choir conductor Jose Aparicio is a treasure who in four years has led the Choir in outstanding performances of wide ranging repertoire, demonstrating has skill as both an orchestral and choral conductor.
Although the majority of the orchestra members were from out of town, resulting in limited time for full rehearsal, Aparicio’s skill in achieving such a high degree of competence and attention to detail on Beethoven’s score, with enormous contrasts of dynamics, sparkling rhythmic impetus, stunning pauses and shattering climaxes, as well as many moments of beautiful playing from all sections of the orchestra.
The choir’s part, in just the fourth movement, was a small by comparison, but it achieved all the powerful climax that Beethoven intended, with excellent balance of all four sections, mightily impressive sustained singing in the high tessitura from the sopranos, and a truly unified, substantial sound from the tenors and basses.
Baritone Jared Holt projected the opening recitative impressively while the other tree soloists – soprano Anna Pierard, mezzo soprano Sarah Court and tenor Philip Griffin – continued in fine style, contributing assured parts to the ensemble as well as in combination with the choir.
No doubt the capacity audience at the second performance the next afternoon, will have had the same uplifting experience as those in the first concert.

Review By Peter Williams