Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Magnificat - The Arts Desk

This disc's academic credentials are impeccable, but my reasons for loving it are purely musical; John Butt's Bach programme allows us to party as if it was, er, 1723. This is a reconstruction of Bach's first Leipzig Christmas - a cantata and a magnificat, interspersed with organ music and chorales. Butt begins proceedings with a Gabrieli motet and a sonorous organ prelude, before Bach's cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag erupts into life. Opening with a swinging chorus, the grandeur is bolstered by four trumpets. The choral forces are modest but brilliantly sung, every strand audible. Joanne Lunn and Matthew Brook are matchless in the aria "Gott, du hast es wohl gefüget". The optimistic final chorus will move the staunchest of atheists. Separating the cantata from the Magnificatare two more organ preludes and a rousing choral blast of "Von Himmel hoch"ll, the Dunedin Consort bolstered by a host of well-drilled friends and supporters.

Butt gives us the earlier incarnation of the Magnificat, a semitone higher than the D major version. The differences are pointed out in Butt's notes. We hear recorders instead of flutes, and there are a couple of ear-tickling harmonies. Following Leipzig custom, Butt inserts four traditional hymns into the work. It's as if you're attending an 18th century Nativity performance. Playing and singing are matchless, the whole work bubbling with theatricality and energy. Another organ prelude and chorale close proceedings in some style. Two additional organ pieces couldn‘t be squeezed onto the disc, but Linn offer them as free downloads. Essential listening.

The Arts Desk
19 December 2015