Armonico Tributo — Matthew Truscott Interview

Ahead of this week’s Armonico Tributo performances, we caught up with violinist Matthew Truscott to hear more about his insights into the music we’ll be performing, and to find out what he enjoys most about working with Dunedin Consort.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started playing the violin, and how did you become interested in historically informed performance?

As a child, I was taken from quite early on by the sound of the violin on my parents’ LPs, and eventually started lessons locally when I was 6. It was at music college that I discovered historical performance properly. Its principles of engagement, investigation and curiosity coincided with a dawning sense I had of the importance of the notes themselves, of the need primarily for musical tools to give purpose to the various violinistic ones I was being plied with.

In this programme, we explore music from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries by composers including Biber, Schmelzer and Muffat. What makes their string writing so distinctive?

While the powerhouses of the era were probably Italy and France, these composers were of a generation in Germany and Austria which absorbed influences from around Europe and then forged a style very much their own: singing ballads, potent dance movements, pictorial representation and lavish virtuosity. There is also a particular density to the five-part string writing which gives it a lovely expressive intensity.

Although you’re now one of today’s foremost Baroque violinists, you’ve always remained active as a ‘modern’ performer. Are you aware of this having had any effect on your reading of this repertoire—perhaps in Biber’s Sonata Representativa, which still sounds incredibly daring even to our twenty-first-century ears!

All of this repertoire has a freshness and vitality which I think it’s our duty as performers to render as effectively and honestly as possible. While perhaps more explicitly an aspiration of the historical performance faculty, this is the case whatever equipment you happen to be using, and among performers of both disciplines. Violinistically, the Sonata Representativa is just good fun, and very satisfying. 

The composers represented in this programme are united by their respective familiarity with different regional and national styles, acquired by the journeys their professional lives compelled them to make. How might we hear this in their music?

Muffat, in particular, is very important in this respect, having spent time in both France and Italy, immersing himself with reverence and diligence in their respective musical communities. His response to this exposure is quite unique: very personal, very expressive and with the nods in either direction seeming only to enhance his own idiosyncratic style. There are beautifully restrained, elegant dance movements, rich harmonies, gorgeous Corellian walking bass lines and sequences and moments of startling beauty. A perfect example of synthesis in these divided times!

As a familiar face to Dunedin audiences in Scotland, what do you enjoy most about working with the group, and what keeps you bringing back to Scotland?

It’s always such a treat to come and play with Dunedin. It’s a special, very welcoming group of players, it’s always interesting repertoire—and John himself is obviously a huge draw! He’s very trusting, and has very particular, irresistible and revelatory ways of thinking and communicating about music.

You can hear Dunedin Consort perform Armonico Tributo at

Kendal Town Hall on Wednesday 17 October at 1:00pm
St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 19 October at 7:30pm
– St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen on Saturday 20 October at 7:30pm
Glasgow Cathedral Festival on Sunday 21 October at 7:30pm