This disc concentrates on images of Christ in a capella music over the centuries. According to Rutter, 'Around the figure of Christ there has grown up over the centuries a body of choral literature that can only be described as among the most remarkable in western civilisation.'
Selections on this disc come from all over the Western world. They range from as early as eleventh-century France to twentieth-century Russia, a millennium in song and composition. Rutter has selected five major themes - the Coming of Christ (Advent and Christmas), the Words of Christ (lesson texts and prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer, by Stravinsky), the Passion of Christ (Holy Week and Good Friday), the Resurrection and Ascension (Easter), and Christ in the Eucharist (worship and ongoing presence).
Here is a mixture of sacred compositions ranging from standard Gregorian chant and Sarum chant to medieval compositions from Palestrina, de Victoria and Byrd, up to more modern composers such as Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bruckner, Barber, and Messiaen. This being said, Rutter states, 'The aim [of this disc] is not a liturgical reconstruction, nor an historical survey, but rather a journey of the imagination.'
The notes for this recording include the titles and words of each anthem or hymn, both in original language and English translation text. The notes for each piece also includes brief biographical information of the composer, and unique information about each work, when particular composers are represented more than once. One thing conspicuously missing is much biographical information about John Rutter, or any descriptive information about the Cambridge Singers. Happily, this disc does have a list of the singers.
Rutter was born in London and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. This was where his career as a composer, arranger and conductor began. His early work was with groups at King's College Chapel at Cambridge as well as the Bath Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked for the BBC providing music for educational series such as 'The Archaeology of the Bible Lands', until in 1979 he began forming the Cambridge Singers, and has continued a remarkable career of performance and recording as their director ever since.
--The Cambridge Singers--
The Cambridge Singers are a mixed choir of voices, many of whom were members of choir of Rutter's college, Clare College, Cambridge. While they specialise in English and Latin liturgical pieces, they have a wide range of recordings that span from modern compositions (including a remarkable requiem by Rutter) to English folk songs of the Middle Ages. Many are former members of the choir of Clare College and other Cambridge collegiate choirs (hence the name, Cambridge Singers). In the quarter-century since the founding, the Cambridge Singers have produced an impressive body of recordings.