Category Archives: Review

Four Seasons in one night a rare treat

Hawke’s Bay Orchestra
Leader Stephanie Buzzard, Directed by Jose Aparicio, The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, Violin Soloist Amalia Hall,

St Paul’s Church, Napier . Saturday, December 12.
Reviewed by Peter Williams.

The strings of the Hawke’s Bay Orchestra were certainly kept busy over this weekend with this concert presented between accompanying the two Napier Civic Messiah performances. Probably the most famous, most often performed and best loved by audiences world-wide, Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons is a sure winner with audiences as evidenced by the near capacity audience at this concert.

Based on four poems, the music of each of the seasons is wonderfully expressive and evocative, superbly crafted, and easily communicated to the audience through each of the four concertos. The soloist’s part is dominant, contrasted with, and supported by the rest of the orchestra.

Visiting internationally acclaimed New Zealand violin soloist Amalia Hall’s playing was all that could have been wished for, holding the audience spellbound from start to finish. She projected the essential character of each of the 12 movements with exceptional clarity, vivid contrasts of expression, exquisite phrasing and an impeccable sense of Baroque style. No wonder the audience was instantly on its feet at the end. The playing of the Bach Gavotte en Rondeau in E as an encore was an added delight.

Expertly directed by Jose Aparicio, whose dedicated commitment to the music shone through, the 21-piece orchestra, which included a harpsichord played by Gary Bowler and a theorbo, a type of lute, matched the soloist well, obviously inspired by the playing of such an accomplished soloist.

Choosing the remainder of the programme – three Baroque period works by Italian Baroque composers Torelli and Manfredini, and finishing with the better known Concerto in G minor, Op 6, No 8 by Corelli, all concerto grossi with a Christmas association – must have been a difficult task.

While greater variety in programme would have added more interest, there were some fine moments in the playing of each concerto. The character of each movement was clearly shown, and the balance and contrast effectively maintained between the concertino of violinists Stephanie Buzzard and Gretchen Anderson and cellist Paula Sugden and the rest of the orchestra.

However, the quality of the playing overall did not always match that of the Vivaldi, needing a more homogeneous sound which could have come as only through longer hours of rehearsal than were available to this ensemble

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

Enthralled to Messiah

Messiah by Handel
Napier Civic Choir
Directed by Jose Aparicio
St Paul’s Church, Napier
Saturday, December 21, 2013

The season of Christmas would be incomplete without the performance of Handel’s immortal oratorio Messiah with performances likely countless times around the world leading up to Christmas.

This was a new, smaller, more intimate venue for the Napier Civic Choir, compared to the usual St John’s cathedral.

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Music by Beethoven, Elgar and Brahms

Music by Beethoven, Elgar and Brahms
Hawke’s Bay Opera Orchestra, Leader Gregory Squire
Director: Jose Aparicio
Cello: Tom Pierard
Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings
Friday 2 August 2013

Reviewed by Peter Williams

Here was innovative use of the augmented opera orchestra, with the visiting players available between the two performances of La Traviata providing a rare chance for local players to experience the performance of this grand and impressive repertoire. Opportunity for rehearsal with all fifty two local and visiting players must have been minimal – the result still a highly commendable performance.

José Aparicio certainly knows his music intimately, knows what he wants in a performance, knows how to get the best from his players, and is a skilled and meticulous conductor who can produce results which give great pleasure to players and audience alike.

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Soaring Choral Performances Prove Hugely Impressive

Music by Beethoven and Cherubini
Napier Civic Choir with Hawke’s Bay Orchestra
Leader: Gretchen Anderson

Directed by Jose Aparicio
St John’s Cathedral, Napier
Sunday, 25 November 2012

Reviewed by Peter Williams

The major choral work on this programme was the Requiem in C Minor by Italian composer and contemporary of Beethoven, Luigi Cherubini, the link for the combination of works in the programme by these two composers.

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Opera Hawke’s Bay, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra and Auckland Opera Studio

Director: Patrice Wilson
Conductor: José Aparicio
Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Leader Gretchen Anderson
Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings
Wednesday 21 November 2012

Reviewed by Peter Williams

There was an immediate stamping, cheering, standing ovation from the almost capacity audience at the end of this stunning production of one of the most popular operas in the whole repertoire. A thoroughly well deserved response in every way, a brilliant example of how this most complex art form can be presented without the huge demands of many productions. Continue reading Opera Hawke’s Bay, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra and Auckland Opera Studio

Napier Civic Choir: Coronation Concert

Napier Civic Choir and soloists
Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, Leader Gretchen Anderson
Directed by José Aparicio
Music by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Mozart.
St John’s Cathedral, Napier Saturday 28 April 2012

Reviewed by Peter Williams

Coronation Concert April 2012, with Napier Civic Choir, Hawke’s Bay Orchestra, and conductor José Aparicio.

This was certainly a programme with wide variety of music to suit a range of preferences. It seemed on paper an unusual combination but in the event provided continued interest for the very enthusiastic audience.

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Haydn’s Creation

Soprano: Ileana Otto-Johansen
Tenor: Oliver Sewell
Bass: Joseph Christensen
Napier Civic Choir
Hawke’s Bay Orchestra
Conductor: José Aparicio
May 2011

Reviewed by Peter Williams

Haydn’s Creation is much admired by choristers and audiences alike, and there was no doubt about the success of this performance.  At the end, the capacity audience was on its feet in a prolonged standing ovation.

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