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.
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.
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.
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.
He may be an unlikely podium hero, but his recording of Mozart’s Requiem with the Dunedin Consort, complete with echoes of a 1920s jazz band, is a delight
‘Linn offers a fascinating extra dimension.’
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.
If you love these works, you’ll be entranced by the excellent quality of the Dunedin Consort and the warm listening experience.
‘If you love these works, you’ll be entranced by the excellent quality of the Dunedin Consort and the warm listening experience’
Butt’s impeccably prepared Bach tastes more like a warming bowl of chocolate
by Graham Rickson
Bangkok Post – Brandenburg Concertos Review
04 October 2013
[High Resolution Download Version Review]
You say that, as a classical collector, there are at least 74 recordings that you need to buy before investing in yet another version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos? That you already have a version of choice (possibly Alessandrini’s or Gardiner’s most recent account), or maybe several, that aren’t likely to be superseded in your affections any time soon? Listen to a few excerpts from this set on the Linn Records website and you may decide that there is still room on your culture shelf for one more set. […] But the sound of the Studio Master recordings is absolutely spectacular, with the presence of the instruments almost tangible.
Gramophone has awarded the Dunedin Consort’s gripping new performance of Bach’s ‘John Passion’ its highest accolade naming it ‘Recording of the Month’ in the March issue of the magazine!
This new recording marks the first time on record listeners can experience the Passion within its original liturgical context and features a star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson.
‘…the increasingly impressive Nicholas Mulroy’s alert, lightly coloured Evangelist strikes a balance in which declamation and lyricism are equally ardent and equally touching, while Matthew Brook is a supple and authoritative Christus.’ Gramophone
Fans of Dunedin Consort will know that director John Butt is a master at using historical context to shine new light upon well-known choral works. Recreated for this recording is a Good Friday Vesper liturgy of a passion performance as it would have occurred during Bach’s time at Leipzig.
‘…naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach’s complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece.’ Gramophone
Passion Tour Dates:
Wed 13th March at 7.30pm Aberdeen Music Hall John Passion Book Now Thu 14th March at 8pm Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow John Passion Book Now Sun 17th March at 3pm The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh Matthew Passion Book Now Mon 18th March at 7.30pm St John’s Kirk, Perth John Passion Book Now
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
We would naturally recommend our own recordings of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Matthew Passion, but are always delighted when others agree with us. A special edition from BBC Music Magazine focusing on the lives and essential works of The Great Composers lists both our Messiah and Matthew Passion as the recommended recordings.
Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Matthew Passion represent two fundamental pillars of the Western European music tradition. Our recording of Handel’s Messiah won the Gramophone Award in 2007 for best baroque vocal recording and a MIDEM award. Bach’s Matthew Passion is not short of accolades receiving the best recording 2008 by High Fidelity magazine.
Dunedin’s success on both the platform and the recording market is testament to the passion and commitment of our artists.
Both recordings are available digitally on Linn Records who currently holds the Gramophone Label of the year award.