John Passion - Dunedin Consort - Herald Scotland

To be honest, my preference would have been to hear John Butt direct his choristers and instrumental ensemble in his liturgical revision of Bach's John Passion in the more intimate acoustic of Perth's St John's Kirk this evening, the day of release of their recording of the work.

That turned out a good instinct when Professor Butt revealed in his preparatory remarks that the mighty Kelvingrove organ would not be deployed for the organ preludes included in this version because the choir had learned only that afternoon that it was inoperable. Someone at Glasgow Life should be carpeted for that.Butt's intro was also an invitation to the audience to join in three congregational chorales in his score, insisting that a little "heterophony" in the performance would not be a problem. Until the familiar closing Now Thank We All Our God, only the more confident took up the challenge.

There was no lack of confidence on stage though, with Nicholas Mulroy's Evangelist and Matthew Brook's Jesus barely consulting their scores and delivering superb performances, and as the drama of the piece hinges on distinct bass tones for Christ and Pilate, Robert Davies was a crucial third voice.

It was asking a lot of eight voices to fill the space - with a dozen instrumentalists - but a fine balance developed markedly over the evening, with some of the loveliest ensemble singing in Ruht Wohl towards the end.

If you can get a ticket for the Perth performance tonight, it is still a good idea. There is a very fine organ and I'll wager that the local singers will be in fine voice on the chorales.

Herald Scotland
18 March 2013