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CD Review

John Rutter

Choral Music

  • Gloria
  • Magnificat *
  • Psalm 150
Gonville and Caius College Choir
* Choir of King's College, Cambridge
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Stephen Cleobury
EMI 557952-2 DDD 61:09
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A new disc of works by John Rutter (b. 1945) is always a welcome event. This music is so uplifting and yet simple, that in today's complex and turbulent world, it is like a stream of clear water passing through a dark and murky forest. This new issue by EMI comprises three works. The 'Gloria' was the first work Rutter wrote for a performance in America making it a landmark composition in the composer's oeuvre. It was commissioned by Mel Olsen who instructed Rutter to produce something short, sharp and yet, festive. The composer was also given a free reign to express all that he wanted to say and Rutter obliged with a work for female sopranos and brass ensemble full of thanksgiving, prayer and praise. Later, he orchestrated the piece which is the one we hear in this recording.

The longest work recorded here is the Magnificat. If you think that it is just the Marian text that Rutter uses then you are sorely mistaken. The composer not only utilises the biblical canticle attributed to Mary but the text is also made up of the poem, 'Of a Rose, a lovely Rose' and at its conclusion we come across the 'Sancta Maria'. The music also incorporates some novelties, as apart from the sacred aspect, there are allusions to jazz, theatre and ethnic styles. All these different characteristics make this work fresh and breezy and it enhances in no small way the reputation of Rutter as a truly imaginative composer. The version we have here is a reduced one prepared by Rutter himself.

The Psalm 150 was composed for St. Paul's Cathedral and is directly connected to the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002. The piece, as is to be expected, is full of English ceremonial music, and as Rutter admits, it also echoes the sounds that Walton produced at the 1953 coronation. This disc is not only an ideal opportunity to relax after a taxing day's work but is also an invaluable addition to the Rutter discography and as such, is not to be missed.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech