RUTTER: Requiem, Motets, Service Music
Choir of King's College, Cambridge/City of London Sinfonia, The Wallace Collection/Stephen Cleobury, cond.
EMI Classics 56605 (F) (DDD) 73:52

John Rutter (b. 1945) has become today's church composer of choice just as Randall Thompson (1899-1984) was 50 years ago. While Thompson's "Alleluia!" graced many a church program (and college as well), Rutter's anthems, services and Christmas music fill a need for those churches wanting substance over superficiality.

Rutter's Requiem (1985), superbly sung by the Choir of King's College on this release, matches music to text in imaginative yet musical ways. Even an occasional nod to Fauré and Duruflé enhances the words. And like fellow Englishman Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rutter takes a simple tune and exploits it in unforgettable ways. There is one major difference -- Rutter's treatment is never banal. There are grand moments such as the pleading "Agnus Dei" which builds to an anguished forte. However, it is often the simple solo sung by a boy soprano such as the plaintive "Requiem aeternam" that captures the mood and the listener. Although using conventional harmonics, Rutter is not adverse to throwing in a stinging dissonance for dramatic effect. Chant-like unisons suddenly burst into 8-part chords. And chromatics are used to intensify rather than change keys.

The remainder of the CD contains three works composed for the King's College Choir, What sweeter music, to a Robert Herrick poem; Veni Sancte Spiritus, and Cantus. Also included is a powerful Te Deum for large chorus, brass, timpani and percussion. Excellent performances throughout, and resonant recorded sound. Highly recommended.

Another Rutter work worthy of special notice is the 1974 Gloria for brass ensemble, percussion and organ. There are two excellent versions available: a Collegium CD conducted by the composer (COLCD 100),and a Column Classic 2-CD set also containing Bernstein's Chichester Psalms as well as works by Britten and Tippett (COL 555014).

K.S. (SEPT. 1999)