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.


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.

Read the full review here

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.

Read the full review here.

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. 

Read the full review here.

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

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)