Classical review: Dunedin Consort, Haddington

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IT WAS the final concert of the Lammermuir Festival for 2013, and what a way to go out – interesting, sometimes challenging music; and sparkling accounts from period-performance expert John Butt and his crack Dunedin Consort.

St Mary’s Church

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The warm acoustics of St Mary’s Church, Haddington, added a breadth to the ensemble’s tone that made it sound like there were far more players on stage than there actually were. But there was no disguising the dramatic focus that Butt brought to the music, or the fine detail of his interpretations.

Ironically, it was the pause created by a missing viola part that led to one of the evening’s most enjoyable, if unexpected, moments: Butt’s impromptu but informative introduction to the Cello Concerto by CPE Bach, JS’s second son. The piece could “sound like a complete jumble”, he warned – as indeed its wild mixture of styles might have done – without playing of utter conviction. And Butt delivered nothing less, with soloist Jonathan Manson turning in a lyrical, nimble performance – grand, arching phrases in the deeply serious slow movement, and infectious energy in the foot-tapping finale.

But the two Mozart choral pieces were the real draw. The Vespers were joyful and full of spirit, soprano Joanne Lunn standing out in a dramatic Confitebor, in which she seemed to live every word. In the closing Requiem, Butt managed an ideal balance of imposing grandeur and scintillating detail, helped by the piquant sounds of his period band and its seemingly boundless energy.