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Hyperion Records

CDA66947 - Rutter: Requiem & other choral works
Photograph by Derek Forss.
CDA66947

Recording details: January 1997
Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: June 1997
DISCID: E3103411
Total duration: 67 minutes 17 seconds

GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE

'Here is music finely crafted, written with love for the art and an especial care for choral sound' (Gramophone)

'A radiant richness of sound.' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'A disc to delight all those who admire Rutter's choral writing. Full of delights and with something for everyone. Certainly a must!' (Organists' Review)

'Sensitive, beautifully blended singing and playing. First class' (Amazon.co.uk)

Requiem & other choral works

John Rutter composed his Requiem in 1985. The work follows the precedents of Brahms and Fauré in using carefully selected texts in place of much of the standard Missa Pro defunctis sequence. The resulting composition has an arch-like formal structure within which is contained some of Rutter's most haunting (and, in the case of The Lord is my shepherd, well known) choral music to date.

Also included are two items from the Birthday Madrigals collection composed in honour of the jazz pianist George Shearing, and eight further sacred works. The double-choir Hymn to the Creator of Light is a wonderful composition, far removed from the romantic style with which Rutter has sometimes been associated; the work here receives its first recording. The Lord bless you and keep you makes a most felicitous ending to the programme—one of those tunes that just will not leave your head.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Requiem was written in 1985 and first performed in the United States. Following the precedent established by Brahms and Fauré, among others, it is not a complete setting of the Missa pro defunctis as laid down in Catholic liturgy, but instead is made up of a personal selection of texts, some taken from the Requiem Mass and some from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The seven sections of the work form an arch-like meditation on themes of life and death: the first and last movements are prayers to God the Father on behalf of all humanity, movements two and six are psalms, movements three and five are personal prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory, accompanied by bells as is traditional at this point in the Mass. Gregorian chant is used, in fragmentary or disguised form, at several points in the work. Each of the two psalm settings has an instrumental obbligato, a feature inherited from Bach.

In style and scale, Requiem owes more to Fauré and Duruflé than to Berlioz, Verdi or Britten. It is intimate rather than grand, contemplative and lyric rather than dramatic, consolatory rather than grim, approachable rather than exclusive. I suppose that some will find the sense of comfort and consolation in it facile, but it was what I meant at the time I wrote it, in the shadow of a bereavement of my own.

The other pieces on this recording all owe their origin to specific requests and circumstances, at least two of which especially stand out in my mind. The Lord bless you and keep you was written in 1981 in memory of Edward Chapman, sometime Director of Music at Highgate School in London: John Tavener’s Funeral Ikos was written for the same memorial service – he and I were contemporaries at Highgate, both of us Chapman pupils.

The Hymn to the Creator of Light is similarly connected with someone who meant much to me, Herbert Howells. I knew him during his last years and admired his work greatly. The Hymn was commissioned for a special Evensong in Gloucester Cathedral during which a new stained-glass window in memory of Howells was dedicated. This event formed part of the Three Choirs Festival in 1992, the Howells centenary year, and the combined cathedral choirs of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford sang. The theme of light seemed to me to have an obvious appropriateness to the occasion.

Draw on, sweet night and My true love hath my heart stand apart as the only two secular pieces included here. They are numbers two and four of a five-movement choral suite called Birthday madrigals, written in 1995 in honour of the 75th birthday of a cherished friend, the great jazz pianist George Shearing. The cycle is so called only because its texts are drawn from the English madrigal era. Although the suite as a whole is tinged with a jazz influence, in the two present movements this reveals itself only in a very oblique way in the harmonic style, which perhaps owes something to one of George’s favourite composers, Delius.

This is one of the first albums (apart from my own Cambridge Singers recordings) to be devoted to my choral music, and I am immensely flattered. But alas, I found out a long time ago that if a composer’s music starts to reach too many people, it pretty soon gets attacked by those who would prefer the non-specialist public to be kept at arm’s length. I happen not to believe in erecting needless barriers between composer and listener: given a choice between critical approbation and a chance of touching the hearts of people outside the limited circle of contemporary music aficionados, I know which I prefer. I am only sorry that we live in a critical climate where there has to be this choice.

John Rutter © 1997

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