Review: Handels Messiah by Orpheus Choir

20:51, Dec 16 2012

Handel's Messiah

The Orpheus Choir, with Simon O'Neill (tenor), Madeleine Pierard (soprano), Andrew Collis (bass), Anna Pierard (mezzo), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Graham Abbott.

Michael Fowler Centre, December 15.

Reviewed by John Button.

The last time The Orpheus Choir sang the Messiah, in 2010, it was one of their traditional initiatives.

This one was for the NZSO, with clear financial advantages for the choir, and it saw Orchestra Wellington relegated to the sideline. This might be a small, but significant, indicator of the future, but it could not hide the quality of this performance, in which every participant contributed to one of the most familiar works in the world of music, revealing new dimensions.


Australian conductor Graham Abbott conducted a performance that was neither fast nor slow, but expressive in its response to the texts of Charles Jennens. With its more spacious treatment than usual of Comfort Ye and Every Valley, Abbott indicated his thoughtful approach to this.

At every turn, this Messiah had a freshness that kept the attention of the most jaded listener. The Hallelujah Chorus was greeted with a burst of applause, and all the arias, recitatives and choruses were listened to by one of the quietest, most attentive, audiences I can remember. The choir had this music in their collective DNA, but, even so, I admired the verve, precision and clarity of the singing, something a choir of more than a hundred voices should be be able to achieve.

All four soloists were first rate. Maybe bass Andrew Collis was not quite as sonorous as Martin Snell in 2010, but he was still fine. The Pierard sisters were splendidly stylish, and Simon O'Neill offered a fascinating contrast to the memorable Keith Lewis in 2010.

The NZSO supported everything with polished playing. This performance achieved the seemingly impossible - a Messiah that revealed itself as almost a new work.

The Dominion Post