Love’s Fire; Love’s Ashes. Edinburgh

Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigals are a theatre of the senses. The murmur of the waves, an amorous glance, the coolness of water or the heat of the sun are all brought to life through the composer’s unparalleled gift for marrying text and music. Indeed, the music in these eight books stands alongside Schubert’s songs, or Bach’s cantatas, as one of the greatest collections of intimately personal music ever produced.

This programme aims to showcase the ravishing beauty of these madrigals, as well as their expressive scope: profound darkness and blinding light; searing grief and amorous rapture. Like Shakespeare or Leonardo, there is a fresh twinkle to Monteverdi’s genius each time you look. This is music to stir the passions and move the soul, and – as the composer explicitly desired – to make us feel and know more vividly both the pain and pleasure of being alive.

Matthew Passion, Edinburgh

When Bach composed his setting of the passion narrative from Matthew’s gospel for the Good Friday liturgy at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche in 1729, he could scarcely have imagined the universal connection that it was to make with musicians and audiences across the world. Even in the secular age, its relevance and impact are no less arresting. Whilst less immediately dramatic than the John Passion, its combination of choruses, arias and extended ariosos present unparalleled insight into and meditative reflections on some of our most profound emotional states.

With just eight solo voices and a team of the very best specialist instrumentalists under the guest director Kristian Bezuidenhout, one of the world’s foremost keyboard artists and interpreters of eighteenth-century repertory, Dunedin Consort deliver an inimitably fresh performance of this monumental work, which still forces us to confront some of the central questions defining human existence.

Do not repine, Fair sun.

In 1617, James VI of Scotland (I of England) made what was to be his first and last visit to his homeland, as part of an affair now known as the Scottish Progress. In a letter to the Scottish Privy Council, he described how he felt ‘a salmonlyke instinct…a great and naturall longing to see our native soyle and place of our birth and breeding.’

With the resident musical institution at Holyrood having fallen into hard times, James imported both an organ and the singers from the Chapel Royal in London, whose journey north via ship was vividly documented. The occasion resulted in two fascinating pieces by Orlando Gibbons, chief organist of the Chapel and one of England’s foremost composers.

In collaboration with Phantasm, one of the world’s leading viol consorts, we commemorate the 400th anniversary of this extraordinary historical episode.