December 2018, Auckland Town Hall, Bach Musica NZ: Christmas Surprise

William Dart, New Zealand Herald

“Bach Musica NZ’s Christmas Surprise concert delivered delights above and beyond seasonal expectations… For almost 20 minutes, one was spellbound by Snell’s navigation of Wagner’s merciless melodic manoeuvres and thrilled by O’Neill, singing without score and adding a palpable theatrical dimension. After the saturated palette of Wagner, Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass was almost transparently clear, a delicate French watercolour beside Wagner’s rich Teutonic oil. It was the perfect vehicle for Paczian’s very able choir and orchestra, from the firm, clarion harmonies of the Kyrie eleison to the striding confidence of the Credo.”

Clare Martin, Radio 13

“Bach Musica delivered a veritable box of Christmas bon-bons last Sunday night at Auckland’s Town Hall. At the centre of the selection was an excerpt from Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in an evening that had something for everyone.

Paczian coaxed sweetness from the strings at a perfect tempo. Even though this orchestra was playing Bach at a modern concert pitch on modern instruments, it still had the light touch and elegance of a baroque sound.

At this point, Paczian showed her dazzling ability with orchestra…for not only did she switch into Wagner in the middle of the programme, but she had undertaken her own arrangement of this scene in order to suit the smaller band. No mean feat on either score. She drew such warmth and colour from the orchestra, proving that a small instrumental force can give due gravitas and depth to Wagner, normally performed with large orchestral numbers.

There is no need to pause for thought if you want to try a classical concert… next time Bach Musica is performing, go! Whether you’re a Wagner fan or not… or don’t know a Gounod from a body part… here is vocal and instrumental playing of New Zealand at its finest under one of the finest conductors. Try and you will not be disappointed.”

Rainer W. Buhmann, Review

“Having grown to approach any Bach Musica NZ Concert with high expectations, in Sunday’s Christmas Surprise Concert, this formidable choir, orchestra and their conductor raised the bar yet again… With international NZ star tenor, Simon O’Neill, as soloist, it clearly embraced the Christmas spirit. By this time the audience was equally drawn into this spirit and opened their hearts and minds to choir, orchestra and an almost mesmerizing conductor: Rita Paczian.

Charles Gounod’s Messe Solennelle offered a happy and transparent contrast to Wagner’s ‘broody deliberations’. Gounod’s joyous music now provided choir and orchestra with a solid platform to demonstrate their extensive musical prowess in total and credible exuberance! And so we were privileged to listen to a choir, whose tonal projection and rhythmic interpretation, whose clarity, diction and sensitive dynamics were second to none and easily on par with the great Baroque-Choirs of Europe.

Supported by exuberant orchestra-playing and choral-singing the soloists trio, comprising the glorious soprano of Alexandra Gandionco, the assured and aspiring tenor of Manase Latu and the sonorous bass of Martin Snell, invoked a spirit of happiness within the audience, and a satisfying acknowledgement, to have such superb musicians in town!”