Review: Dunedin Consort’s Coffee and Enlightenment

Herald Scotland / Kate Molleson

Concert on the 5th of February 2015. Bach and Enlightenment

[…] balancing gutsy panache and pristine, shapely definition in Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite. Cantatas 165 and 31 featured excellent singing from Matthew Brook, Thomas Hobbs, Rachel Redmond and Clare Wilkinson.

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A wonderfully nimble Messiah from the Dunedin Consort

There were too many wonderful moments in this performance to single out. What made this a memorable Messiah were the small forces blending into a big dynamic sound, crystal clear diction and both singers and players simply bursting with infectious energy. As the final Amens with trumpets and timpani faded away, I wondered how different the first performance might have sounded all those years ago in Dublin. The beaming smiles from performers and audience suggested it surely must have come close.

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Acis & Galatea – Review Perthshire Advertiser

Ian Stuart-Hunter   St John’s Kirk, Perth – 19 Sept 2014

Perth performances by the Dunedin Consort under their inspiring Director John Butt have always excelled, but their Friday performance of Handel’s pastoral Acis and Galatea topped this. As John Butt said in his witty introduction: only two things happen in this piece: an hour and a quarter in Acis is flattened by a rock then quarter of an hour later he is turned into a fountain. The End.   Acis and Galatea is criticized as a procession of da capo arias, an A section, a shorter contrasting B section, then A is repeated. A recipe for boredom? Not when the repeated section is given such inventive ornamentation as done by all of the singers.   There was too a great deal of musical quality and delight in the 90 minutes. This started with a lively reading of the bustling Overture, John Butt standing at the harpsichord as the presiding genius, beaming and gesticulating inspiration to the players. A particular pleasure was Frances Norbury in both solo oboe and solo sopranino obligati.   The five soloists had powerful and exciting depth of sound in the opening chorus The Pleasures of the Plains. Joanne Lunn entered as the nymph Galatea, then the first of the bird imitations from the recorder. Accuracy, beauty of tone, dynamic range, clarity of diction all played a convincing part.

Acis & Galatea – Review Bachtrack

Alan Coady ****

Dunbar Parish Church – Lammermuir Festival – 21 Sept 2014

The brisk Sinfonia suggested an energetic, committed performance. Control of dynamics was literally vital, moments of sudden quiet allowing further urgent build up. […]

What I loved in this closing performance of the fifth Lammermuir Festival, was that everyone looked delighted to be taking part. When not actively involved the singers and musicians seemed genuinely to be enjoying the contribution of others as much as we were.

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Acis & Galatea – Review Herald

Kate Molleson *****
Dunbar Parish Church – Lammermuir Festival – 21 Sept 2014

Don’t let anyone tell you Acis and Galatea is too vapid for decent drama, nor that an opera in concert performance can’t be properly entertaining. What little plot there is to Handel’s 1718 pastoral mini-opera involves a nymph, a shepherd and an evil monster, all lifted from book eight of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Usually a performance is worth sitting through for its gorgeous music alone: this concise little two-acter contains some of Handel’s most irresistible tunes.

Full Review

St John Passion – Review Perthshire Advertiser

Ian Stuart-Hunter   St John’s Kirk, Perth – 16 April 2014

The hottest ticket in Perth was one for the Dunedin Consort’s performance of J.S.Bach’s St John Passion. Even before the doors of St John’s Kirk had opened there were more than eighty people waiting to get in and well before the start main aisle and transepts were filled. With the leadership both academic and enthusiastic of John Butt, the Dunedin Consort are not only Scotland’s leading authenticist group, they fill everything with vitality.    So it was that nearly a year and a month after they had last performed their liturgical reconstruction of Bach’s Johannes-Passion, they were back in Perth doing the same piece of historical revivification. Yet it wasn’t – it was totally new and equally alive.    A big change was the hugely more dramatic element, coming over most obviously in the way tenor Thomas Walker viewed his major part as Evangelist. Right from the start he was brilliant at colouring: you felt the word ‘verriet’ (betrayed) from his very first recitative, and ‘verleugnete’ from Peter denying Christ. Though enlivening the recitatives this became a little too much in his Arias. Under John Butt’s direction the Trial Scene of Part Two had tremendous sweep and was more vitally wild and dramatic than any opera.    Equally excellent and a foil to this was the expressive calm and gravity of  bass Jonathan Sells, starting as a youthful and vulnerable Jesus, developing in stature.   The musicians of the Dunedin Consort played their dramatic part, too: baleful wind giving an air of urgency and doom to the opening, with soloists and ripienists giving drive to the opening chorus, their eight voices having focus and power. As soloists in the obligato instruments for Arias flutes, oboes, oboe d’amore and two violinists all played peerlessly.   A minor element, which did not work, was seeding the audience with people to join in with some of the chorales. There was a tentative start with mumbled school assembly singing, and a few confidently out of tune singers, spoiling these parts of the Passion where the audience is meant to feel at home with the work.   Soprano Joanne Lunn was an object lesson in beautiful and expressive singing: ‘freudig’ (joyfully) giving a lift to Ich folge dir gleichfalls, countering in Zerfließe, mein Herze with a voice that spoke purely and directly of pain. Margot Oitzinger’s warm alto was distinctive in Von den Stricken, with good ornamentation in the da capo, and the sustained tone of despair in Es ist vollbracht with its sudden change to triumph.   Overall, it was indeed a triumph: a magnificent performance of a great piece, done with thoroughness of research, brought to vivid life by performers of conviction and ability.

“Shaken and stirred”

David Chillingworth:

I WAS taken unawares. We don’t expect to be “shaken and stirred” by anything religious these days. Bored perhaps, but not turned inside out as I was at a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion by the Dunedin Consort in Perth Concert Hall last week.

Full article on www.scotsman.com