Dunedin Consort/Butt review – bravura Bach to ring in 2019

Wigmore Hall, London
John Butt led the Scottish baroque group through an evening of joyful vocal and orchestral works performed with elan

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 that presented vocal and orchestral works, familiar and less so. In the first half, the Second Orchestral Suite and Fourth Brandenburg Concerto flanked the motet Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied. After the interval came the Magnificat in its first version, in E flat (we usually hear the second, transposed down a semitone into D), complete with the interpolations Bach added to the score for performances at Christmas.

All of it was played and sung with the fleetness, clarity and engagement we have come to expect from Butt and the Consort. Instrumental textures were beautifully honed, the counterpoint marvellously clear, the concertante solos eloquent and poised. Flautist Katy Bircher stood out in the Second Suite with her exquisite playing in the Badinerie. In the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, the dialogues between violinist Huw Daniel and the recorder players (Lászlo Rószá and Bircher) had a beguiling grace and dexterity.

Singet dem Herrn, meanwhile, blended wonder at God’s creation with sombre reflections on mortality as its vocal lines shuttled immaculately between between two groups of four singers. The high point, though, was the Magnificat, which offset grandeur with human warmth. Playing and choral singing had tremendous elan, and the soloists were consistently superb, with particularly fine contributions from silvery toned soprano Rachel Redmond, countertenor James Laing and tenor Hugo Hymas, his coloratura easy and refined. Wonderful, every second of it.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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