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.
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.
This recording is produced by Rutter, but is performed by the London Sinfonia, a group that he has worked with but is not the usual Cambridge Singers. This performance compares favourably with Rutter's own group, with areas in which there is greater subtlety and depth.
on 3 April 2003
Rutter's Requiem must be the most recorded piece of contemporary choral music, so Naxos had their work cut out to produce a recording that would stand out. With the help of the composer they have succeeded.
This recording has been overseen by the composer himself who uses forces he has worked with before: the Choir of Clare College Cambridge and members of the London Sinfonia. What distinguishes this recording is that it is the first of the chamber arangement of the work. This in no way means that we are treated to a smaller sound, instead we get get greater precision, focus and refinement aided by some brilliant solo instrumental work. Everyone involved seems to be performing at their peak in a rendition of the work that is both powerful and prayerful, enhanced by excellent acoustics and production work.
For those who have not heard the work it is classic Rutter, firmly in the tradition of the classic 20th century British choral music of Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and Benjamin Britten. Rutter adds his gift of making works instantly accessable without sacrificing musical depth. While many people describe it as a 'positive' Requiem in the style of Faure I would describe it's most obvious characteristic as being 'searching'. It would make an excellent intoduction to contemporary choral music for anyone who hasn't put their toe in before.
The works that fill the rest of the disc turn it into an rounded introduction to the composer's choral music as a whole.
The Three Anthems show Rutter at his most impressive and serious. The Two blessings for Choir and Orchestra show his lighter side. The two organ works make a fine ending to the disc with the playful Toccata in 7 (in 7/8 time) and the inventive Variations on an Easter Theme for Organ Duet.
This is a mesmerising account of Rutter's Requiem, and various anthems, blessings & organ pieces. The sheer beauty of the singing from Clare's College has a profound depth & sense of blessing, and the recording is in the demonstration bracket. Whenever I listen to it I find it one of the most moving pieces of music I know.
Nor is this just my opinion. 'Gramophone Classical Guide' rate this recording as 'outstanding', and it not only achieved a 'rosette award' & 4 star review in Penguin Guide, but also made it into their 1000 best recordings of all time. Simply sublime!