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4.6 out of 5 stars
John Rutter:  Requiem & Magnificat
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This recording of the Cambridge Singers has them recording pieces composed by their own director, John Rutter. The Magnificat is Rutter's version of a standard piece of liturgical music, an intersection of old and new. This was recorded at one of the Cambridge Singers' favourite venues, the Great Hall of University College School, London; the Requiem was recorded in 1986, and the Magnificat in 1991.
--Music--
'The Magnificat' is one of my favourite pieces of the liturgy, and one I enjoy hearing set to different kinds of music. This is a very lively and spirit-filled rendering, with magnificent vocals expressing the joy that is found in the prayer of Mary - 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour'. The repetition of the word 'magnificat' over and over in the early part of the music reinforces this idea of joy and praise. Rutter writes, 'I was conscious of following Bach's example in adding to the liturgical text - with the lovely old English poem "Of a Rose" and the prayer "Sancta Maria", both of which strengthen the Marian connection, and with the interpolated "Sanctus" (to the Gregorian chant of the Missa cum jubilo) in the third movement.' This is an extended Magnificat, done in seven movements.
Rutter's Requiem was written in 1985. In Catholic liturgy, a requiem is a Mass for the Dead, and as such involves strong tones both of mourning and loss as well as elements of hope and eternal life as reflected in Christian belief. Rutter states that, like Brahms and Faure, there are elements that depart from the traditional lines of a Catholic requiem. Rutter takes some of the texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Both the first and second movements, Requiem aeternam and 'Out of the Deep', set very dark, low, sombre tones. The use of strings at the beginning of 'Out of the Deep' is very effective, together with funeral-dirge like vocals. This contrasts greatly with the Pie Jesu, light and spiritual. The Sanctus is almost playful in aspect, and the Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna draw the listener higher and higher into the fullness of expectation of God's presence.
--Liner Notes--
The notes include an introduction to the CD by Rutter describing some of the influences and expressions in his composition. Lyrics are included, and where the original is in Latin, an English translation is provided. There is a listing of the performers of the Cambridge Singers, but no description of the group, nor biographical information about John Rutter.
--John Rutter--
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.
This is impressive indeed - were this a vinyl recording, my copy of both the Requiem and the Magnificat most likely would be worn away by now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2002
Why write another review when there are already so many? Because The Rutter Requiem is one of the most beautiful pieces of modern sacred music composed, and the Cambridge Singers execute it with graceful, soaring perfection. Rather than being about death, the Rutter Requiem is really composed for those left living. It is comforting, melodic, and uplifting.
This recording is conducted by the composer, which makes it particularly interesting. Rutter is one of the few composers who really conducts well. He frames his modern and sometimes dissonant harmony with masterful phrasing. The Cambridge Singers and London Sinfonia are responsive, and work together well. Some reviewers have criticized Caroline Ashton's Pie Jesu, but I disagree. The Pie Jesu movement of a requium is traditionally plantive, asking Christ's blessing, and Ashton's clear, light sound works quite well. Perhaps my favorite movement is "The Lord is my Shepherd" with an exquisite oboe solo by Quentin Poole.
This recording is like sitting in church, listening to a particularly good choir and orchestra perform a beautiful work, and it is well worth buying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2002
Since 9-11 we are all in need of consolation and reassurance. John Rutter's lovely "Requiem" will provide solace for everyone; his music is universally appealing and will please all, not just those with advanced musical training or highly discerning ears. Lyrically beautiful, and filled with the interesting harmonies of British music of the modern period, the piece will soothe your soul. I often play it in the evening when it smooths away even the most trying day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2003
Rutter certainly stands consideration as one of finest choral composers of our time.
Here his desire to take on Requiem and Magnificat are reverently approached with new settings not heard before. This is composer's considerable talent on display, performed admirably by Cambridge Singers and London Sinfonia.
Not since Bach have we heard such delicate, powerful music surrounding and uplifting such sacred words.
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There are two schools of requiems: those that try to scare the living into being good (including those by Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, and Webber) and those that try to console the grieving (including those by Brahms, Fauré, and Duruflé). Brahms has met his match in the Rutter Requiem!
The Rutter Requiem is fairly short, clocking in at approximately 35 minutes, but it is exquisite. I'd argue that every movement is perfectly composed. This recording shifts the balance away from the orchestra and towards the choir, but that helps to enhance the listener's connection to the Latin and English texts. Unfortunately, Caroline Ashton sounds tentative on the Pie Jesu, and she lacks the emotion and phrasing to pull off the movement. Besides that, the artistry of the recording is virtually flawless. Kudos to Donna Deam for a moving, pure, and clear solo in the final movement.
Movement I: Requiem aeternam / Kyrie. After a mysterious introduction, Rutter introduces a divinely inspired melody that will melt the hardest of hearts.
Movement II: Out of the deep (Psalm 130). A plaintive cello solo combines with the choir's plea for God to listen and show mercy.
Movement III: Pie Jesu. An exquisitely simple request for Jesus to grant the dead everlasting rest.
Movement IV: Sanctus. A joyous song of praise. I can understand those who find this movement repetitive and with too much emphasis on high-register instruments and voices.
Movement V: Agnus Dei. An incredible building up of a standard supplication, interspersed with excerpts from the Book of Common Prayer and flute solos that hearken back hundreds of years.
Movement VI: The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23). The apex of the requiem, a statement of faith and confidence, with lush strings and a beautiful oboe solo.
Movement VII: Lux aeterna. A reassuring conclusion, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," before a return to the melody of the first movement.
The MAGNIFICAT has some truly wonderful moments of exhuberant joy and quiet reverence in it, but it cannot compare emotionally with the REQUIEM. (Personally, I don't especially care for the second movement.) Patricia Forbes has one of the best voices I've ever heard, especially well suited for the calm, lyrical, confident parts of movements IV and VI.
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This CD is a welcome mid-price CD coupling Rutter's two large-scale works, his "Requiem", composed after his father's death, and the more recent "Magnificat."
Rutter's "Requiem" clearly shows the influences of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, composed about a century earlier, while his "Magnificat" is, in some ways, based on Bach's "Magnificat," especially in the interpolation of additional texts. Both are fairly straightforward pieces, well within the range of amateur choirs.
Both of the recordings feature clear singing from the choir, and subtle playing from the orchestra. My only complaint (a minor one at that) is that occasionally Rutter's forces seem a little too small in the first movement of the "Requiem," but the rapturous cello solo in the second movement, "Out of the Deep," more than makes up for this.
However, at mid-price, this CD is certainly a bargain; fans of the "Requiem" who are looking to acquire a copy certainly would not go wrong with this disc.
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on November 3, 2000
Two of John Rutter's best works, the Requiem and the Magnificat, are performed on this CD in a brilliant way by the composer himself conducting the Cambridge Singers. The Requiem is one of the best settings of the Mass for the Dead by any composer. This is not a strict setting of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, but it also have inserts from the 1682 Book of Common Prayer. As a whole, the piece is a reflection on the issues of death and eternal life, combining soothing moments as the ethereal Kirie to rousing choruses like the Sanctus. The performance of the Cambridge Singers is, as always, near perfection. It is specially noteworthy the ethereal performance of soprano Caroline Ashton in the beautiful Pie Jesu. The Magnificat, on the other hand, is an exultant setting of Mary's canticle. Again Rutter, blends the original text with lovely additions, like the beautiful English poem 'Of a Rose', the Gregorian setting of the Sanctus and the moving prayer 'Sancta Maria'. Soprano Patricia Forbes is radiant and soaring in her three solos. The City of London Sinfonia brings an expert playing to the superlative singing, ably conducted by John Rutter. Both the Requiem and the Magnificat are meditative and joyful reflections on some of the most beautiful and meaningful beliefs of the Christian tradition.
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on June 2, 2000
When a composer conducts his own music you get his real intentions for the way it should sound. Having personally performed the Requiem just a month ago, I can say that the score and the recording are in line with each other (i.e. Rutter's performance does not vary (significantly) from what he wrote in the score). This recording features fine singers and instrumentalists as well. My only quibble is that the pieces sound a bit "studio"-like. There is great precision, blend, balance, etc., but sometimes the emotion seems stiffled or flat. But perhaps this is as Rutter intended... Don't misunderstand me, this is a fine recording of some very nice (even great) music. It is probably the best recording of these pieces in existence.
As far as the compositions go, I personally like the Requiem more. It is more "serious" in style. It is less "Rutter-like" in the sense that it does not have the "pop" feel that is common in much of his work. The Requiem also contains some VERY lovely melodies (Kyrie eleison, Pie Jesu, The Lord is My Shepherd), and some elegantly understated orchestration. I agree with the other reviewers who believe it is Rutter's best work.
The Magnificat is very upbeat and more popular in feel. It is a joyful piece which brings a smile to my heart.
This recording is an excellent way to experience Rutter's larger works, though a live performance might give you some of the spark that I felt was a bit lacking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2012
Purchased this for three family members for Christmas - it was a HUGE hit! Everyone has REPEATEDLY told me that they love the album and this is from people who would not put choral music, or even classical music, on the top of their list of favorites. Beautiful, beautiful melodies.
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on August 1, 2001
All things considered, this is a great recording for the money, if you like John Rutter. His music on this disc is, as always, quite beautiful; just don't expect it to be particularly deep, as is also often the case with Rutter. So the guy's not Mozart, Faure, or even Cherubini, but so what - who is? This is a fine recording, beautifully sung, and (considering the price) it gets a strong recommendation from me. That said, my only real gripe is the singing of soprano Caroline Ashton. While her voice is pretty and she conveys the spirit of the music well, she sounds like a boy soprano, and her phrasing and breath control could have been better. These are small gripes, however, and no reason not to buy this fine disc.
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