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Two glorious pieces by Rutter
on February 1, 2006
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.
'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.
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.
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.