Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — The Scotsman

The Scotsman ★★★★★

Here is a performance that draws every ounce of emotive symbolism and sublime inference from Handel’s poetically refined score. It features John Butt’s excitingly precise Dunedin Consort, whose instrumentalists are idiomatically stylish to the last

…Yet another Baroque tour de force from Butt, who has a simple knack of turning highly informed intelligence and curiosity into performances fired by spontaneous combustion.

Read the full review here

Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — The Herald

The Herald

The work packs a powerful punch in these hands, and nowhere more so than when Bostridge combines with the chorus in the aria hymning “the double, double, double beat/Of the thund’ring drum”.

Read the full review here.

Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — Europadisc Review

Europadisc

The eight singers of the Dunedin Consort are reinforced by the twenty members of the excellent Polish Radio Choir, giving the choruses (particularly the exultant closing stanza) plenty of force combined with stylishness and clarity of enunciation. With starring roles for solo cello, trumpet, flute, lute and organ, the Dunedin instrumentalists are at the peak of their form…

Butt’s customarily erudite and detailed notes, and an exceptionally fine recording from Kraków’s Krzysztof Penderecki Hall all add up to make this an unmissable recording. And, with Cecilia-tide fast approaching, what better time to hear it?

Read the full review here

The Musical Offering (Perth Concert Hall) — The Herald

The Herald, 18 September 2018 ★★★★★

The Dunedin Consort’s Musical Offering took the form of a performative lecture by Glasgow University’s Gardiner Professor of Music, telling the story of its composition, pointing out what to listen for, and spicing the journey with some characteristic Butt humour.

I fancy that, although not lacking in a conceit of himself, Frederick II would be astonished to learn that folk were leaving a venue in a distant corner of Europe humming his little tune over 250 years later. But really his contribution to that success was relatively small compared with that of Bach, John Butt, violinists Hue Daniel and Rebecca Livermore, cellist Jonathan Manson, Alison McGillivray on Viola da gamba and the flute, oboe and bassoon of Georgia Browne, Alex Bellamy and Joe Qiu.

Read the full review here.

The Musical Offering (Lammermuir Festival) — The Scotsman

The Scotsman, 18 September 2018 ★★★★★

“It was a wonderfully witty yet erudite event, matching brilliantly characterful playing – of the intricate canons and inventions Bach conjured from an awkward theme throw at him by Frederick the Great – with pointed insights from Butt himself.

And it was just the kind of format to bring what Butt described as this ‘arcane mind-music’ dazzlingly alive, as he came up with ever more ingenious ways to demonstrate how Bach went far beyond the King’s initial challenge… Butt’s talk-plus-performance concept was just as playful and insightful as Bach’s music – enormous but entirely serious fun for both mind and heart.

Read the full review here.

The Musical Offering (Lammermuir Festival) — Seen and Heard.com

Seen and Heard International, 17 September 2018

Butt is a first-rate communicator, combining the learning of a professor (which he is) with the charisma of a natural presenter. I overheard one audience member saying to another, ‘How did he manage to make the most desiccated piece in the repertoire sound like fun?’!

The musicians sounded predictably delightful, be it in the bouncy strings, the pungent oboe or the limpid flute, but it’s Butt’s explanation that will stick with me the most.

Read the full review.

Samson (Edinburgh International Festival) — The Telegraph

The Telegraph, 17 August ★★★★★

With its Gaza setting and its storyline of possibly the world’s first suicide terrorist (or should that be freedom fighter?), Handel’s Samson isn’t without its contemporary resonances…

With director John Butt’s gloriously lithe, supple reading of the work, however, there was never any doubt about the work’s vivid storytelling. Indeed, Butt’s pacing across Samson’s broad architecture was a thing of no little wonder, tracing a sure trajectory from ponderous seriousness at its opening through to increasingly fast-paced action as the work nears its close.

Full review (may require registration)

Samson (Edinburgh International Festival) — The Scotsman

The Scotsman, 15 August ★★★★★

Lasting over four hours in total, Handel’s oratorio Samson was undoubtedly one of the International Festival’s lengthier events. Yet, in the high-powered performance of it by Edinburgh-based Dunedin Consort on Monday evening, not a thing wavered for a moment in gripping the audience throughout the piece’s entirety…

In an unconditionally uplifting performance, an exceptionally fine line-up of soloists, the instrumental ensemble playing period instruments and the bedrock of Dunedin, its chorus, responded to Butt’s life-affirming direction to bring the pathos of Samson’s despair alive.

Full review

Samson (Edinburgh International Festival) — The Herald

The Herald, 14 August ★★★★

Dunedin Consort stalwart Matthew Brook was as reliable as ever as Manoa, Samson’s father, and John Butt’s expanded instrumental ensemble similarly superb, a very grand chamber organ (played by Stephen Farr) at the centre.

However, it was noticeable how many young singers were part of the 24-strong chorus, while tenor Hugo Hymas and soprano Louise Alder sparkled in smaller roles. Alder, of course, made her Festival debut with the Dunedin Consort two years ago as a last minute replacement for Danielle De Niese, singing Handel, and here she had cameos at the beginning and end, including a couple of a cappella moments and the score’s best known tune, Let the Bright Seraphim. Even it was outshone by the glorious choral hymn that brought the work to a conclusion.

Full review

B Minor Mass (Queen’s Hall) – The Herald

The Herald, 21 June 2018 ★★★★

Will the days of big choral concerts of Bach’s B Minor Mass ever return to revival the chamber approach of historically-informed performance? Not if conductors like John Butt continue to produce revelatory recitals like this one… every combination of vocals and continuo playing flowed in seemingly effortless sequence… the instrumental ensemble was superb throughout, and as soulful a period band as you are ever likely to hear.

B Minor Mass (Wigmore Hall) – The Times

The Times, 25 June 2018 ★★★★

[John Butt] fields six “soloists” joined by four other singers to add lustre and body to the bigger setpieces. As they fall in and out of the textures, the sense that’s created is more of a communal celebration, a moment-by-moment experience of the Mass rather than the enactment of a mysterious rite. Butt, who directs from the harpsichord, works for a long time with the same forces and it shows in the easy rapport he has with his players and singers. For all the debates on historically informed performance, the most persuasive aspect of this concert was the sheer sense of joy. It was there in the moment when Butt pressed the accelerator and the ensemble soared into Gloria in excelsis Deo. It was also there as the singers moved from the desolation of Crucifixus etiam pro nobis to the blaze of salvation that is Et resurrexit.

#RPSCountdown: our highlights from 2017

As the classical music world gears up for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards on Wednesday 9th May, we have been looking back at our favourite moments from 2017 and celebrating the many reasons why Dunedin is shortlisted in the Ensemble category From Edinburgh to Leipzig, Waltershausen to London, we look back on an extraordinary year.

2017 Highlights

  1. Where else could we start but with our BBC Proms debut from 20 August 2017, a performance of Bach’s John Passion ‘that shed new light on the work by carefully contextualising it’ (Guardian).
  2. In June 2017 we performed in the magnificent Nikolaikirche as part of Leipzig Bachfest. What a venue – and what a spectacular occasion.

    Bows in Leipzig

  3. On 5 August 2017 we had the honour of opening Edinburgh International Festival’s series at The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh with a programme exploring connections between Schütz and Monteverdi. The Scotsman enjoyed it as much as we did! ‘Delivered with the Consort’s typical joie de vivre and flourish’ (Scotsman)
  4. In September 2017 we ticked a huge item off our bucket list when we traveled to Waltershausen,Germany with Iestyn Davies to perform a programme of Bach and Handel on an original Bach organ.

    Waltershausen

  5. In April 2017 we enjoyed our first collaboration with Kristian Bezuidenhout, who directed from the harpsichord in three Matthew Passion performances across Scotland. ‘The solo instrumental playing in this performance was unwaveringly stunning’ (Herald)
  6. September 2017 saw the release of our Monteverdi Vespers 1610 recording, which has earned a glut of 5 star reviews. ‘Stripped back performances that are fresh and luminous, lithe and alive’ (Herald – Top 20 Classical Albums of 2017)
  7. In April 2017 we were thrilled to be part of James Runcie’s BBC Radio 4 drama exploring how Bach’s Matthew Passion was written, composed, rehearsed and performed in the build-up to its first performance in Leipzig on Good Friday 1727.

7 days, 7 highlights from 2017, 7 reasons why we have been nominated for an RPS Ensemble Award.

Monteverdi Vespers 1610 – Choir & Organ

Choir & Organ Magazine, March/April 2018 ★★★★★

Not for John Butt the nit-picking over liturgical detail that has bedevilled the study of Monteverdi’s 1610 anthology: swerving that in favour of a concert presentation, concentrating on issues at the heart of the music, he re-examines vexed questions of pitch, tempi, scoring etc with utterly credible, even revelatory results. Vital passion (especially in the concerti), fresh, compelling fervour, luminous clarity and exquisite phrasing flow from ten vocal virtuosi and brilliant instrumentalists. Even if one prefers interpretations with a ripieno choir, it must be conceded that small forces of this quality can pack a knock-out punch – che forza!

Monteverdi Vespers 1610 – Stereophile Recording of the Month

Stereophile Magazine, Recording of the Month – May 2018 ★★★★★

This performance, joyously free of eccentricities, interested only in the honest, beautiful expression of music and texts, is heavenly.

Read full review

Kate Molleson on how Dunedin Consort is shaping the future

In an article for The Herald, Kate Molleson has described how the work that Dunedin Consort is doing is helping the world of baroque music to become inclusive and future-facing ‘not by narrowing down but by opening up’.

Read the full article here.