‘Stylus phantasticus’, the name given to the type of early baroque music written by Buxtehude, might well be applied not just to the sound-world of his highly embellished A major Sonata for strings, but to everything the incomparable Dunedin Consort performed at the Queen’s Hall on Saturday to open the Festival’s morning concert series.
Delivered with the Consort’s typical joie de vivre and flourish, director John Butt’s programming centred around 450th birthday boy Monteverdi and Schütz’s transcription of his mini-opera Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.
Taking Tasso’s Italian poetry and expressing its story in German, the battle of love and death was excitedly descriptive with tenor Nicholas Mulroy narrating the tragic tale along with the period instruments of Dunedin, notwithstanding that he was at times overpowered by them.
Sophie Bevan was an achingly plaintive dying Clorinda, the dramatic role more suited to the richness of her voice than Schütz’s devotional settings in which it was difficult to hear the German texts. Juxtaposed with Monteverdi’s settings of Armato il cor and Zefiro torna, which again provided inspiration to Schütz, gave historic connection.
Outstanding in both were Mulroy and fellow tenor Gwilym Bowen, their voices beautifully blended and astonishingly together in waging war.