Dunedin Consort / Butt / Sophie Bevan review – baroque fireworks lit by natural spark

University of Glasgow Chapel
Bevan’s refreshing virtuosity pairs splendidly with the Dunedins in this enjoyable romp through Bach and Handel

Bach never wrote an opera but he knew all the tricks and came darn close. Much of his sacred vocal music is dramatic enough for any stage — emotionally charged enough, too, from a singer as charismatic, playful and expressively frank as Sophie Bevan. This week the soprano joins conductor John Butt and the Dunedin Consort for a tour of Bach and Handel solo cantatas cut with spirited ensemble concertos.

It’s an evening essentially designed to showcase Bevan’s splendid voice, which it does, but the band provides the right style and personality for her to spark against. There’s something brilliantly robust and natural about her singing: no artifice, no fuss, a healthy wit, a refreshing kind of virtuosity that’s grounded and almost casual but still totally dazzling. Her voice is bigger and richer than we’re used to hearing with the Dunedins, but it works. In Bach’s cantata Falsche Welt (False World) she entered full-throttle with images of snakes and scorpions then gave beaming confidence to the effusive line: “God is faithful.” In Handel’s early cantata Alpestre Monte she was all ardent anguish in the aria Almen Dopo il Fato Mio. In his 1706 Gloria setting – lost for centuries but unearthed in 2001 at the Royal Academy of Music library – she brought a hint of cheek to the lavish repetitions of Laudamus te (“We praise you”).

Dunedin Consort music director John Butt.
Dunedin Consort music director John Butt. Photograph: HANDOUT

It was cold in the Glasgow University Chapel: a February night with the heating broken, never a great environment for temperamental period instruments, and there was some audible limbering up in the opening Sinfonia. But elsewhere the playing was plenty warm, with violinist Cecilia Bernardini trading beautifully shaped solo lines with recorder players Pamela Thorby and Catherine Latham in Bach’s fourth Brandenburg concerto.

  • Touring to Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 24 February; Wigmore Hall, London, 26 February, and Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, 27 February.


Kate Molleson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Dunedin Consort, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Queen's Hall, EdinburghBased on translated Gaelic poems, it is atmospheric, sensitively written and worth hearing again

Rowena Smith

10, Nov, 2008 @12:01 AM

Article image
Bach to the future: how the Dunedin Consort keep the baroque rolling
In obsessively trying to recreate mythic past, baroque specialists became militant and intolerant. But guided by John Butt’s pluralistic ethos, this music is becoming inclusive and future-facing

Kate Molleson

18, Dec, 2017 @4:46 PM

Article image
Dunedin Consort: Messiah review – drive and drama, clarity and beauty
Soloists James Laing and Nicholas Mulroy shone particularly among an exemplary ensemble in a small-scale interpretation of Handel’s oratorio led by John Butt

Tim Ashley

21, Dec, 2016 @2:19 PM

Article image
Messiah review – the Dunedin Consort delivers Handel’s epic with zest
John Butt led a choir of just 12 in a vivid performance that was at turns sensual, unflinching and menacing, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

22, Dec, 2014 @1:04 PM

Article image
CD: Bach: Matthew Passion, Dunedin Consort & Players/ Butt

(Linn, three CDs)

Andrew Clements

21, Mar, 2008 @2:33 AM

Article image
Dunedin Consort – review

The Scottish baroque ensemble eschews star turns and tackles a tricky Mozart's Requiem at the Lammermuir Festival, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

24, Sep, 2013 @12:02 PM

Dunedin Consort – review

This was as intimate a take on Handel's Messiah as you're likely to get, and one of the most special, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

21, Dec, 2012 @6:07 PM

Article image
Dunedin Consort/Butt review – bravura Bach to ring in 2019
John Butt led the Scottish baroque group through an evening of joyful vocal and orchestral works performed withelan

Tim Ashley

01, Jan, 2019 @1:20 PM

Dunedin Consort, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Tom Service

20, Aug, 2002 @12:54 AM

The Prince Consort – review
This year's instalment of the annual Perth Schubertiade was right to focus on the composer in the context of his contemporaries, predecessors and successors, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

12, Oct, 2011 @1:38 PM