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.

“splendidly vital playing and singing” – Oslo International Church Music Festival

“Dunedin’s splendidly vital playing and singing (a superb soloist trio) was liberating at this time of year, when winter’s long darkness hopefully gives way to light.”

Olav Egil Aune, Vårt Land, 28.03.17

Edinburgh International Festival – “poise, confidence and some superb singing”

The Scotsman ****

Filling them with poise, confidence and some superb singing with the ever-excellent Dunedin ­Consort, Alder, still under 30, is a name assuredly on the up and one to keep a close eye on.

 

Full review here

Monteverdi Vespers – Lammermuir Festival

The Scotsman *****

[Butt] brought an astonishing richness and smoothness to his Dunedin forces’ sound… By the walls of sound in the closing Magnificat, the Vespers felt overwhelming in their grandeur, but there was something to savour in every moment. It is hard to imagine a more exquisite, deeply felt performance.

 

Full review here

Monteverdi Vespers – Lammermuir Festival

The Herald *****

 

This richness and variety shone through in this superbly stylish and joyful performance from Dunedin Consort and His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts directed from the organ by John Butt. The Vespers is a lengthy work, but here delivered with the Consort’s trademark energy, the momentum was never allowed to falter… All told this was an exhilarating performance and it was rapturously received by the capacity audience in St Mary’s.

 

Full review here

Messiah – St John’s Smith Square

The Financial Times

 

Here was a group performance perfectly poised between exuberance and sobriety, ritual and spontaneity, with daring lapses into silence that lent the words extra weight.

 

Full review

Sophie Bevan Review – Baroque fireworks lit by natural spark

The Guardian – Kate Molleson

There’s something brilliantly robust and natural about her singing: no artifice, no fuss, a healthy wit, a refreshing kind of virtuosity that’s grounded and almost casual but still totally dazzling. Her voice is bigger and richer than we’re used to hearing with the Dunedins, but it works.
[…] The playing was plenty warm, with violinist Cecilia Bernardini trading beautifully shaped solo lines with recorder players Pamela Thorby and Catherine Latham in Bach’s fourth Brandenburg concerto.

Full review

Lammermuir Festival Review 2015

Lammermuir Festival Performance – 13th September 2015, Brunton Hall

Together they blended to create a modern-day opportunity to meet, listen, eat, drink and take time to consider some weightier musical and cultural issues.

[…]

It was an experiment for sure. But it was one that paid off in terms of its abundant audience – drawn by the event’s various elements, of course – but also in terms of the engaging, fresh light it shed on the cafe culture of Bach’s time, and in provoking thoughts and discussion about our own.

The Arts Desk

David Kettle