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John Butt is Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow and musical director of Edinburgh's Dunedin Consort. As an undergraduate at Cambridge University, he held the office of organ scholar at King's College. Continuing as a graduate student working on the music of Bach he received his PhD in 1987. He was subsequently a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen and a Fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge, joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1989 as University Organist and Professor of Music. In autumn 1997 he returned to Cambridge as a University Lecturer and Fellow of King's College, and in October 2001 he took up his current post at Glasgow.
His books have been published by Cambridge University Press: these include Bach Interpretation (1990), a handbook on Bach’s Mass in B Minor (1991), Music Education and the Art of Performance in the German Baroque (1994). Playing with History (2002) marked a new tack, examining the broad culture of historically informed performance and attempting to explain and justify it as a contemporary phenomenon. He is also editor or joint editor of both the Cambridge and Oxford Companions to Bach and of the Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Music (2005). His book on Bach’s Passions, Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity, was published in 2010, and explores the ways in which Bach's passion settings relate to some of the broader concepts of modernity, such as subjectivity and time consciousness.
John Butt’s conducting engagements with the Dunedin Consort (2003-) have included major Baroque repertory and several new commissions. His recording of Messiah in its first performed version (Dublin, 1742) was released by Linn Records in 2006 and received the Gramophone award in the Baroque Vocal Category in 2007 and the MIDEM award for Baroque Music in 2008. In 2014 Butt and Dunedin won another Gramophone award, this time in the Choral Category, for a reconstruction of the first performance of Mozart’s Requiem. Linn have also released his recording of Bach's Matthew Passion in March 2008 (which was ClassicFM Magazine’s Recording of the Month), and Handel’s Acis and Galatea in November 2008 (which was Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice and Recording of the Month, and shortlisted for a Gramophone award). His recording of Bach’s Mass in B Minor was released in May 2010 and was also Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. This was followed by Handel’s Esther (2012) and Bach’s John Passion (CD of the month in both Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine) and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos in 2013 (both the latter were shortlisted for Gramophone Awards).
John Butt has been guest conductor with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The English Concert, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Irish National Chamber Choir, Stavanger Symphony, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the Göttingen Handel Festspiele, the Berkeley Festival and the RCS Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. He also continues to be active as a solo organist and harpsichordist. Eleven recordings on organ, harpsichord and clavichord have been released by Harmonia Mundi, and his recording of Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier was released by Linn in November 2014. As conductor or organist he has performed throughout the world, including recent trips to Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway Spain, Poland, USA, Canada, Israel and Korea.
In 2003 John Butt was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and received the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association. That year his book, Playing with History, was shortlisted for the British Academy's annual Book Prize. In 2006 he was elected Fellow of the British Academy and began a two-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for his research on Bach's Passions. He was a member of the Council of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), 2010-14. In January 2011 he was the fifth recipient of the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation's Bach Prize, for his work in the performance and scholarship of Bach, and in 2013 he was awarded the medal of the Royal College of Organists and an OBE.
John Butt is a Co-investigator in the AHRC-funded Bass Culture in Scottish musical traditions project; Future performance projects include a recorded recreation of the first performance of Bach’s Magnificat in the Leipzig Christmas Liturgy and a new recording of the Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. He is also undertaken a series of ‘Coffee House’ concerts with Dunedin Consort, in an exploration of the interaction of eighteenth-century music and public debate in the Enlightenment era. Other research directions include work on relations between the historic culture of classical music and religion, and between the culture of ‘absolute music’ and film.