Bach Magnificat, Wigmore Hall — The Times Review

Paul Driver, The Times

… a joyous New Year’s Eve of music by Bach from the Dunedin Consort, directed by John Butt.

The original E flat version of the Magnificat in the second half was a captivating unfolding of short but vividly characterised choral or solo-voice movements, the Latin contrasting with the German of two of Bach’s four Christmas interpolations, one of them the beautiful Vom Himmel hoch hymn. The vocal soloists, Rachel Redmond, Joanne Lunn, James Laing, Hugo Hymas and Stephan Loges, were all impressive, and the other five Dunedin voices lusty contributors.

The Orchestral Suite No 2 in B minor flaunted the felicitous flute-playing of Katy Bircher; and the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto was ensemble brilliance at its most inventive and scintillating. A happiest time was had by all.

Read the full review here.

Beginning of the Revolution — Hunterian Museum, Glasgow — The Herald Review

★★★★
Keith Bruce, The Herald

Its [the music’s] intricacies were in good hands here, starting with the delicious interplay between the viols of Jonathan Manson and Alison McGillivray on a Jenkins’s Pavane and later including a virtuoso and melody-packed sonata by Benedetto Marcello played by Manson. Butt was in his solo element on Kuhnau’s David and Goliath, the Old Testament story depicted in some of the earliest programme music we know.

Read the full review here.

Bach Magnificat — Wigmore Hall, London — The Independent Review

★★★★★
Michael Church, The Independent

The Dunedin Consort, under John Butt’s historically-informed direction, gave a typically dazzling performance of Bach at his most ravishing. The second Orchestral Suite and the fourth Brandenberg Concerto, conveyed by just eight players, emerged with all the detail meticulously clear, while each of the eight voices in the motet “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied” contributed characterfully to that intricate work’s florid exultation.

Read the full review here.

Bach Magnificat — Wigmore Hall, London — The Guardian Review

★★★★★
Tim Ashley, The Guardian

There can’t be many better ways of ringing in 2019 than with the Dunedin Consort performing Bach. Their New Year’s Eve concert, under musical director John Butt, was an evening of reflection and joy…

Wonderful, every second of it.

Read the full review here.

Messiah — Glasgow, City Halls — The Herald Review

★★★★
Keith Bruce, The Herald

An interpretation of Handel’s Messiah that makes the listener aware of both the work’s musical and liturgical sophistication is a special thing, yet that is what the Dunedin Consort routinely achieves under artistic director John Butt. For the award-winning Scottish baroque vocal and instrumental ensemble, Messiah has become their Stairway to Heaven or Bohemian Rhapsody.

Read the full review here.

Armonico Tributo (Kendal) — Westmorland Gazette

Westmorland Gazette, 22 October 2018

Movements from [Muffat’s] Armonico Tributo were striking in the range of tempi, instrumental colours and dynamics. The consort played with obvious affection for this music and, particularly in the final passacaglia, demonstrated virtuosic technique.

Read the full review here.

Armonico Tributo (Glasgow) — The Herald

The Herald, 22 October 2018
★★★★

The finest compositions of the concert, perhaps unsurprisingly, were by Heinrich Biber. Truscott revelled in the menagerie of animal impressions that is his Sonata Representativa, with cellist Jonathan Manson assisting in the portrayal of birds, frogs and cats – a gentler side to his better-known Battalia pictorialism.

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.