Trevor Pinnock Interview

Meet renowned harpsichordist and conductor Trevor Pinnock, who directs Dunedin Consort for the first time next week in our performances of J.S. Bach’s Matthew Passion in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Can you remember your first experience of the Matthew Passion?

I well remember my introduction to parts of the Matthew Passion (in English!) as a choirboy at Canterbury Cathedral. I was especially taken by the aria ‘Jesu saviour, I am thine’ (Ich will dir mein Herze schenken).

Having been a cathedral chorister, do you feel your your background as a singer has informed your harpsichord playing and direction in any particular way?

The daily training at the choir school laid the foundation of my life’s work. The discipline of listening and reacting to other vocal parts and being aware of how all parts combine to the produce the whole work was instilled in me, and has been of enormous benefit as a conductor and soloist. 

You’ve already performed the Matthew Passion a few times this year; it clearly doesn’t get boring for you! What do you think keeps the work fresh and appealing to contemporary audiences? 

This year I have performed the Matthew Passion at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa where I was Music Director many years ago, and at the Royal Academy of Music. These were strongly contrasting performances. The first was with the combined choirs totalling 80 singers, and the second with singers specially chosen to make two choirs of 12. Solos were shared between the choir members.

Now there is an even greater contrast as I lead the Dunedin Consort’s established way of performing the Passion with single voices and instruments. I feel honoured to be asked to do this as I am a great admirer of John Butt and his ensemble. This is an exciting challenge for me. People may wonder how I can feel happy to do such contrasted performances? The answer is simple — the substance of the work and the consequent emotions it portrays are constant but our mode of transport is different. The St Matthew Passion embodies deep truth which is felt by those of Christian belief and those of none. It is a welcome stabiliser and inspiration in our unsettled age. 

Have you worked with any of our singers before? 

At the Royal Academy of Music, Lina Dambrauskaite sang in chorus 1 and sang the aria ‘Aus Liebe’. On the basis of this, I invited her to join the consort for our performance. I have also worked with Miriam Allan, who was my soprano soloist in performances of Messiah in Canada with Les Violins du Roi. Hugo Hymas came to London to sing to me recently and we had an enjoyable few hours of Evangelist. I am very much looking forward to meeting the other singers.

What are you most looking forward to, coming to Scotland to work with Dunedin Consort for the first time?  

I have always enjoyed working in Scotland whether with orchestra, in chamber ensembles or as a soloist. It will be a pleasure to perform at The Queen’s Hall, where I have not played since the 1980s — and I am very much looking forward to enjoying the newly renovated Music Hall in Aberdeen.

Away from the harpsichord and your conducting activities, how do you spend your time these days?

I love to spend family time with my grandson who is nearly three years old. There is so much to learn from the little people.

Dunedin Consort performs Bach’s Matthew Passion twice next week:

Music Hall, Aberdeen — Thursday 18 April, 7:00pm

The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
— Friday 19 April, 7:00pm

Podcast: Beginning of the Revolution – with John Butt

Podcast: Ben Parry introduces The Golden Age


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

From frogs to fencing: Introducing the music of Armonico Tributo

Later this month we will be travelling across Scotland and the north-west of England with Armonico Tributo. Taking its title from a collection published by Georg Muffat, a Franco-German composer with Scottish ancestry, this intimate instrumental programme explores some of the most compelling string repertoire from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Not sure what to expect? We’ve made a playlist by way of introduction to this extraordinary music — by turns richly-scored, astoundingly virtuosic and even laugh-out-loud funny.

So, who’s who?

With the exception of Francesco Navara, of whom very little is known, all of the composers are united by having travelled abroad to pursue their studies and in search of employment. This resulted in them each developing innovative artistic voices, bringing together new styles and techniques from different regional and national musical traditions across Europe.

Georg Muffat

Mainly known as an organist, Georg Muffat (1653-1704) was born in Savoy and studied successively in Alsace and Paris with, among others, Jean-Baptiste Lully — one of the central musical figures at the court of Louis XIV, and one of the protagonists in the development of French Baroque Opera. From Paris, Muffat found employment variously in Vienna, Prague and Salzburg, travelling to Rome in the 1680s for a period of further study.

The Armonico tributo, which Muffat published in 1682, is made up of examples of the concerto grosso — that is to say, pieces that are based on the alternation of different solo groups, as opposed to a single soloist. This diverse range of influences resulted in Muffat’s style being extremely cosmopolitan for the time, successfully fusing French dances with the flair of the Italian school and the discipline of the German forms.

Heinrich Biber

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) was born in Bohemia, and also ended up in Salzburg. He was the leading violinist of the seventeenth century and his music explores extended techniques aimed at finding new forms of expression on the instrument. His Sonata Representativa incorporates bird and animal sounds to conjure up rich pictorial music. Listen out for his croaking frogs, squawking hens and bumbling quails…

One of Biber’s most significant influences must have been the violinist composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c.1620-1683), whose works formed the foundations for the Austro-German violin school in the later seventeenth century. The son of a career soldier in the the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III’s army, Schmelzer eventually became Kapellmeister (Director of Music) at the imperial court.

Fencing in the 17th century

Surely one of the most unusual programmatic works of the seventeenth century, Schmelzer’s Fechtschule  or ‘Fencing School’— renders in music the range of movements in the sport of fencing, one of the main physical activities practised by men in European courts at that time. Schmelzer renders the sword strokes with remarkable ingenuity, creating music that is more graceful than violent, before all the participants eventually come together for the Bader aria, or ‘bathing aria’.

Intrigued? Join us in Kendal (17 October), Edinburgh (19 October), Aberdeen (20 October) or Glasgow (21 October) to hear — and see — for yourself how these composers produced some of the most thrilling instrumental music of the European Baroque.

Protected: Fundraising Dinner November 2017

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PROM 49 – Congregational Chorales

Are you coming to our PROM this coming Sunday, 20th of August 2017? We would love if as many people in the audience joined the musicians on stage in the congregational chorales that would have formed part of the Vespers liturgy. We extracted these chorales from the Vopelius 1685 Leipzig hymn book.

There will be a short rehearsal at 19.15 ahead of the performance. Looking forward to this enormously!

Click on the link below to download the songsheet.

If you still have not bought your tickets, here is the link!


Meet the Artists – Katy Bircher

Playing with history again

Administrator Position

Matthew Passion – Opening Chorus


Was Bach really a ‘tasteless and chaotic composer’?

 on the Spectator:

It’s just not what you expect to hear on Radio 3 but I happened upon Music Matters on Saturday morning and after playing us a clip from the opening chorus of St Matthew Passion Tom Service pronounced, ‘Bach is a tasteless and chaotic composer.’ I felt as if my ears had been syringed.

Service was actually repeating what one of his guests, the Bach scholar John Butt, had just asserted, as if to verify his intention.

You may want to listen to the actual radio programme for context!

NCEM young composers award 2015 winners announced