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Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — The Scotsman

The Scotsman ★★★★★

Here is a performance that draws every ounce of emotive symbolism and sublime inference from Handel’s poetically refined score. It features John Butt’s excitingly precise Dunedin Consort, whose instrumentalists are idiomatically stylish to the last

…Yet another Baroque tour de force from Butt, who has a simple knack of turning highly informed intelligence and curiosity into performances fired by spontaneous combustion.

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Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — The Herald

The Herald

The work packs a powerful punch in these hands, and nowhere more so than when Bostridge combines with the chorus in the aria hymning “the double, double, double beat/Of the thund’ring drum”.

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Handel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day — Europadisc Review

Europadisc

The eight singers of the Dunedin Consort are reinforced by the twenty members of the excellent Polish Radio Choir, giving the choruses (particularly the exultant closing stanza) plenty of force combined with stylishness and clarity of enunciation. With starring roles for solo cello, trumpet, flute, lute and organ, the Dunedin instrumentalists are at the peak of their form…

Butt’s customarily erudite and detailed notes, and an exceptionally fine recording from Kraków’s Krzysztof Penderecki Hall all add up to make this an unmissable recording. And, with Cecilia-tide fast approaching, what better time to hear it?

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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.

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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.