Bach Harpsichord Concertos – Edinburgh International Festival – Scotsman Review

Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman
★★★★★

To hear Bach played on an instrument from the world-class collection at St Cecilia’s Hall offers a privileged glimpse into how the composer’s music might have sounded at the time.
…Suzuki’s hands moved seamlessly between the two manuals adding to the drama of this richly scored work. The accompanying period instruments produced a lively orchestral sound centred around the dynamic viola interactions with the harpsichord.

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Bach Harpsichord Concertos 5 – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Carol Main, The Scotsman
★★★★

Possibly, for a concerto soloist, the only thing worse than breaking your glasses just before heading to the platform, is finding out that the glue used to fix them hasn’t worked.

Even in the face of such adversity, the show went on at St Cecilia’s Hall on Tuesday with harpsichordist Richard Egarr valiantly leading instrumentalists of the Dunedin Consort from the solo seat in Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in E major.

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Bach Harpsichord Concertos 1 – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Ken Walton, The Scotsman
★★★★

Is there a venue more perfect for this 5-concert series of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos than the intimate 18th century St Cecila’s Hall?

Required to top it off are musicians and performances of equal calibre, which is what began to emerge as duelling harpsichordists Mahan Esfahani and Aapo Häkkinen, along with with members of the Dunedin Consort, opened the series with Bach’s solo Concerto in D and Double Concerto in C minor.

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Bach Harpsichord Concertos 2 – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Ken Walton, The Scotsman
★★★★

The “new” material, he added, came from a 1726 cantata bearing the same theme, so the task was to do “what Bach would have done” and “turn it into a harpsichord concerto”. The result was largely convincing, strangely scored (by Bach) for supporting oboe, strings and continuo, but distinctive in this performance for the deliciously ripe oboe playing of Jasu Moisio.

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Bach Harpsichord Concertos 4 – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman
★★★★

The tonal blend of the two instruments was perfect with Schornsheim’s sharper articulation adding brightness in the quicker movements…Schornsheim gave a lively account of the mercurial prelude from the English Suite No 4 in F major followed by the Keyboard Concerto in F minor. This featured a bed of soft pizzicato strings in the slow movement and there was a witty series of echoes in the presto, similar to the echo aria in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

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Bach’s Multiple Concertos – Edinburgh International Festival – The Arts Desk

David Nice, The Arts Desk
★★★★

You had to wait for the four to come to the fore – or for one of them, in the case of the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, where Egarr eventually went wild in his first-movement cadenza. He also charmingly introduced the arrangement of the Italian Concerto as essentially for two players, with the other two “jamming” in a Graingeresque “dishing up”. It was a delight

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Bach Harpsichord Concertos – Edinburgh International Festival – The Times

Simon Thompson, The Times
★★★

This first concert in the series started as they mean to go on: the Dunedin musicians play on instruments from Bach’s time, and the pair of harpsichords, both from 1755, come from St Cecilia’s remarkable collection of historical instruments. What’s not to like?

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Bach’s Multiple Concertos – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Ken Walton, The Scotsman
★★★★

The Concerto in C for three harpsichords, opened with a sound akin to a swarm of bees. But as the musical texture found flight, soloists John Butt, Richard Egarr and Diego Ares sourced mischievous gamesmanship to indulge in. The solo honours went to Egarr in the Brandenburg Concerto No 5, a golden concertante partnership with violinist Cecilia Bernardini and flautist Flavia Hirte, eliciting eccentric nuances, tasteful wit and spectacular keyboard virtuosity.

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Bach Secular Cantatas – Edinburgh International Festival – The Scotsman

Ken Walton, The Scotsman
★★★★

The latter was the more persuasive, not just for its uncommonly extravagant orchestration – trumpets, horns and timps crowning the wind and strings with resplendent euphoria – but also the compositional grit that gives rugged theatrical edge to otherwise standard cantata numbers, and which the Dunedin singers engagingly characterised.

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Matthew Passion – Boston Early Music Festival

J.S. Bach – Matthew Passion
Kristian Bezuidenhout, director
Boston Early Music Festival, 10 June 2019

Early Music America Review

The two dozen virtuoso instrumentalists under Bezuidenhout’s continuo direction brought a transparency and dramatic flair to the orchestral music that was always in tune to the spirit of the text. In all, this performance of St. Matthew Passion was a moving and unforgettable experience.

EARLY MUSIC AMERICA

Matthew Passion — The Herald Review

Keith Bruce, The Herald
22 April 2019
★★★★★

The clarity of the instrumental playing, from continuo in all its manifestations, through the melodic lines of pairs of flutes and oboes, to the entire ensemble and a beautiful solo turn from violinist Huw Daniel, was superb, and – some slightly wayward intonation in the reeds at the start of the second half apart – consistently impressive.

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Apollo and Daphne — The Herald Review

★★★★
Keith Bruce, The Herald
8 February 2019

The composer’s plundering of Ovid and Petrach is a musical delight, and had the best balance of the musical forces we heard all night, with Katy Bircher’s flute joining the fine performance by oboist Alexandra Bellamy and eleven strings, led by Huw Daniel. 

[T]he challenges of the chapel acoustic were overcome by an ensemble full of fine performances, including some tricky natural horn wrangling and consistently sweetly-toned bassoon from Katrin Lazar.

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Apollo and Daphne — Seen and Heard Review

The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
Simon Thompson, 6 April 2019
Seen and Heard International

The fizz and crackle of the orchestral writing could only have come from a young genius on the make, and that jumped out of this Dunedin Consort performance, playfully directed from the harpsichord by an exuberant John Butt. The band of players was small (three first and three second violins, two violas and cellos, one bass, with winds) which led to transparent textures and an airy feel. Furthermore, the musical energy of the classical story was buoyed along by some gorgeous obbligati, none more sensuous than the gorgeous flute that accompanied Daphne’s first aria.

The singers [Matthew Brook, bass and Rowan Pierce, soprano] were perfectly chosen, both for their musical strength and their dramatic sensibilities. 

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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.

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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.

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