Related Reviews
Toccata
'...a lovely interpretation.'
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Classic FM
Classic FM's 20 Best Classical Albums of 2016: 'John Butt and his Edinburgh-based Dunedin Consort play Bach’s music brilliantly, and with Cecilia Bernadini as soloist, their reputation is further enhanced.'
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Concerto
'It is rare to hear a violin in the upper range so golden, in the lower range so dark, almost earthy, and yet always balanced and capable of any desired shade.'
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Limelight Magazine
4½ Stars
'The Grammy-nominated Dunedin Consort is supportive and exuberant accompanying allows Bach's lyricism and wit to sparkle.'
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Fanfare
'They give a joyous performance...'
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The Strad
'Bernardini offers proficient, well-articulated readings of Bach's two solo violin concertos, her buoyant, small-scale orchestral accompaniment spawning light, spruce textures in the outer movements and making inner detail clearly audible.'
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Pizzicato
„Dies ist eine exzellente Bach-CD, der es an nichts mangelt.“
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AllMusic
4½ Stars
'In [Bernardini's] playing you get the virtuoso energy of the contemporary Italian school without the hard edge, and there is a sense of play in her music-making that one senses Bach would have loved...Highly recommended.
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MusicWeb International
'One can simply recommend this disc unreservedly on all musical fronts. These are beautiful and lively performances second to none.'
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Netherlands Radio 4
„CD van de Week” / ”CD of the Week”: „Hun nieuwste opname van Bachs betroemde Vioolconcerten is weer een schot in de roos. De concurrentie is groot bij deze werken maar deze cd valt op als een van de betere uit de catalogus.”
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Classical Music
5 Stars
'The Dunedin Consort's Dutch-Italian leader steps into the limelight for fresh, scrupulously-detailed accounts of the two solo concertos and the double concerto.'
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BBC Radio 3 ‘Record Review’
'Virtual Wallet' Choice by Kate Molleson: 'I love it!'
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Der Neue Merker
'The soloists have both technical mastery, virtuosity and musicality...a recommendation for lovers of audiophile recordings.'
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Gramophone
'This new disc of Bach concertos has attributes we have come to expect from the Dunedin Consort and Linn, namely neat, stylish and uncomplicated performances in a recording of beautifully judged clarity and resonance.'
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McAlister Matheson Music
'This is music-making of the highest order, vividly captured by Linn's sound engineers.'
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Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'In one of the most beautiful-sounding releases Linn has ever given us...'
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BBC Music Magazine
4 Stars
'Violinist Cecilia Bernardini's bowing is both fluid and crisply detailed in the opening and closing movements of the E major Concerto (BWV 1042). The outer movements of the A minor Concerto (BWV 1041) benefit from her precision and clarity, with intelligent use of dynamics and an ear for the expressive potential of repetition and variation.'
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Daily Mail
4 Stars
Classical Album of the Week
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MusicWeb International
'I very much enjoyed hearing [Bernardini's] contribution to this recording and I need hardly add that she receives first-rate support from John Butt and the other members of the Consort.'
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Classic FM
Album of the Week: 'Two of Bach's solo violin concertos, overflow with intricate and pin sharp detail and the famous, sublime slow movement of Bach's Double Concerto has never been more heartrending.'
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BBC Radio 3 ‘Record Review’
'This recording has elegance at its heart with Bernardini showing a nice feel for the dynamic contrasts and varied repetitions in the A minor and E major concertos. Two of the highlights are when she is joined by her father, the baroque oboist Alfredo Bernardini, for the C minor Concerto for violin and oboe, and as an extra treat the Sinfonia from Bach’s Cantata No. 21.’
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The Guardian
5 Stars
'There are so many things to marvel at: her husky, shapely tone, her earthy way with rhythm, how she tugs playfully the top of phrases, her ability to dart in and out of ensemble textures and make the whole thing so joyously convivial.'
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Andrew Benson-Wilson Reviews
'This is a spectacular CD from the ever excellent Dunedin Consort and their leader, violinist Cecilia Bernardini, this time in a solo role.'
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Early Music Review
5 Stars
'This is a fabulous recording of some of my favourite music; I have yet to hear a recording by John Butt that is not utterly convincing; with his Dunedins, he has struck gold once again – this goes straight to the top of my pile for rainy days when I need cheering up!'
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Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos - The Herald Scotland


23 March 2016
The Herald Scotland
Kate Molleson

The rebel's road to baroque Bach

TEENAGE rebellions are, by their nature, contextual. For the kid growing up in an orthodox religious family it might be drink or sex. For the child of liberal lefties it's a career in hedge funds, possibly golf. For Cecilia Bernardini, daughter of early music royalty, teenage rebellion was playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with an awful lot of vibrato. "My parents just about endured it," she cringes.

Bernardini is the Dutch-Italian leader of the Dunedin Consort - Scotland's early music ensemble - and soloist on a superb new Dunedin recording of Bach's violin concertos released last week on Linn Records. Her playing is warm and original, lightly virtuosity and deeply musical, healthily eccentric. She digs into her fiddle with an earthy, organic sort of lyricism and a playful conversational spark that has bags of charisma but never sounds forced. In short, she has the sound of a natural.

Bernardini's mother is a baroque orchestral violinist and her father, Alfredo, is an esteemed baroque oboist who moved from Italy to the Netherlands in the 1980s to position himself at the epicentre of the early music movement. "I do have an uncle who is a modern composer and works with electronic music and things..." Bernardini reveals. "He's kind of the black sheep of the family. I suppose we all go through our rebellious moments."

When Bernardini took up the violin she learned on a regular modern instrument. Her first teacher gave her a cassette tape every week featuring a different romantic concerto played by a different romantic-style soloist. "I must have listened a hundred times to Nathan Milstein playing the Tchaikovsky concerto," she smiles. "Until the tape wore out. I thought he was the ultimate. I remember deciding that if I learned a bar of that concerto every day then in two years I would be able to play the whole thing really well."

She studied at the Conservatory in Amsterdam where her peers were equally fanatical about shiny playing and spurred each other on to bigger, faster, louder flights of virtuosity. "We were competitive in a good way," she remembers. "It's probably where my work ethic came from." But the institution still held fairly unreconstructed attitudes towards early music, with a general impression that you only become a baroque violinist if you fail as a modern violinist. "Even my last teacher in Amsterdam - an incredible Russian virtuoso who taught me so much - always advised me to wait with the baroque stuff. "'You can always do it later if you have to,' he would tell me."

And maybe it was inevitable that she always would do it. "My father thinks I was born to play baroque violin," she sighs. "I guess because I heard this music so much in my youth, and always played by the very best musicians." Giants of the early music world, from harpsichordist Ton Koopman to viol player Jordi Savall, were regular guests around the Bernardini kitchen table. "And actually," Bernardini adds a little shyly, "my dad is one of the very greatest musicians I know. I probably learned most of all from him. In any case, I got all this music before I got anything else, so it's engrained in my DNA."

Her professional debut as a baroque player happened almost by accident. She was 21 and hadn't yet officially declared herself an early music specialist; she had a baroque violin at home and had "toyed with it a bit," she says. Her father was recording a disc of Mozart serenades for Sony Classics with his period-instrument ensemble Zefiro, and at the last minute his first violinist pulled out. "I still don't know how he had the courage to ask me to be the replacement," Bernardini admits. "It could have been a complete disaster. At the beginning I felt incredibly self-conscious. I mean, all his colleagues had known me since I was literally a baby, so to suddenly take the lead was about as daunting as it gets. But sometimes the less time you have to worry about something the better. I think it went alright..."

It must have done, because a decade later Bernardini is one of the brightest baroque violinists of her generation. She's keen to point out that she still plays modern violin - she frequently leads an orchestra in Paris called Pygmalion and has a string trio called Serafino that plays post-baroque repertoire on modern instruments, albeit strung with gut. Scottish audiences might remember that she was on trial to be leader of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for several years, but eventually withdrew from the running because her baroque engagements were ramping up. She wants to keep her options open, she says, "but the reality is that with my surname, and the fact there's another Dunedin CD on the way, people will get to know me as a baroque violinist." She's retaining her right to rebellion, but she's also grudgingly accepting her home territory.

And she is right that her new recording will lodge her musical personality in the imagination of listeners: that husky tone, that rhythmic swing, that habit of tugging at the corner of phrases and that ability to dart in and out of ensemble textures and make the whole thing sound so joyously convivial. I remember sitting in on the recording session toward the end of 2014 and noticing how Bernardini didn't position herself out in front of the group, where most concerto soloists would, but in amongst the other players. "Of course!" she replies. "The Dunedin Consort consists of soloists of their own right - players like Jonathan [Manson], Huw [Daniel], Alfonso [Leal del Ojo]... So I never find there's a need to impose or stand out. The disc might be marketed as a concerto collection, but I really see it as a chamber project."

In the Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, Bernardini is joined by her father. The two have been collaborating more and more in recent years - "and we enjoy it a lot!" she smiles. "The only struggle was back when we started playing together on an equal level. It was hard to not feel like..." she pauses to find the right words. "Well, the nature of our relationship has always been him teaching me things. Of course he has a vast amount of knowledge and experience, but at some point I needed to make a switch and be able to take my own space on the stage. It happened gradually and it's a mutual thing. Not just how much I take that space, but how much he gives it to me. I think we've now found a nice balance."

 


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Cecilia BernardiniCecilia Bernardini
Dunedin ConsortDunedin Consort
John ButtJohn Butt
J.S. Bach: Violin ConcertosJ.S. Bach: Violin Concertos