The Dunedin Consort have been an important part of the Lammermuir Festival since its inception. This year they are at the heart of the Festival, with four concerts all over East Lothian, playing all six of Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos, as well as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and a number of Handel’s Concerti Grossi. Three of the four concerts are reviewed here and they are, as we have to come expect from the Dunedin, all of the highest standard. Conductor John Butt gives entertaining introductions to each of them, stressing the connections between the music and the composers of the period.
The concerts begin on the opening day of the festival, Friday 13 September, in the splendid setting of St Mary’s Haddington, the ‘cathedral’ of East Lothian and the biggest parish church in Scotland. They play two of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos plus a couple of orchestral suites and two Vivaldi violin concertos, including Summer from the Four Seasons. John Butt leads the Consort expertly from the harpsichord and Cecilia Bernardini gives very spirited leadership to the strings and superb solos. Kate Bircher adds some lovely flute solos and the packed audience at St Mary’s love it.
Tuesday 17 September sees the Dunedin in the small but lovely Crichton Collegiate Church at Pathhead. The church is very full; indeed, your critic is about six feet from John Butt and his harpsichord and can see how he expertly communicates his control over the Consort. The concert includes two Vivaldi Concertos including Autumn from the Seasons and two Concerti Grossi from Handel and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Again, Cecilia Bernardini is the star. She plays with great passion and colour, particularly in the Vivaldi.
The concert on Thursday 19 September is in the fine setting of Prestongrange Church in Prestonpans which suffered both from the ‘Rough Wooing’ of Scotland in the 16th century, and also a much more recent attack from vandals which had seen 13 windows broken! Fortunately it has been repaired in time to allow the concert to go ahead. The Consort play another two Vivaldi Concertos, this time including Spring, two Handel Concerti and finally, the Brandenburg No 5. The superb Cecilia Bernardini is on this occasion backed up by Alexandra Bellamy on the oboe.
The series sees Dunedin Consort consolidate their reputation as an international standard ensemble and their involvement with the Lammermuir Festival ensures its very high reputation. The Festival is helped by glorious weather in this first week, which makes travelling the back roads of the lovely county of East Lothian a delight.