Rutter: Gloria (CD Review - Gramophone Magazine, 2001)

This superb disc contains a balanced cross-section of John Rutter's sacred choral music, spanning over a quarter century and featuring several first recordings.  Dedicated to the memory of his son, Christopher - tragically killed in a street accident in Cambridge earlier this year - it contains a selection of largely contemplative pieces framed by two 'heavyweight' works, with accompaniments for organ, brass and percussion.  Beware the unwary listener who sets the volume control too high - the blistering brass which open the Gloria will tear you from your seat!

Rutter's stylistic hallmarks are all here: an unfailing knack to get to the root of the text, exquisitely balanced vocal writing, melting harmonies, intensely sweet turns of phrase (sometimes over saccharine), short ecstatic climaxes, but also a willingness to be astringent, and rhythmically powerful.  There are nods to pageantry, for example in the conclusion of the Gloria with its Waltonian swagger, some deliciously echt Sullivan at the end of the Te Deum and, in I my Best-beloved's am, an occasional vision of the neo-Byzantine sound-world of his fellow Highgate School pupil, John Tavener.

The artistry of the 25 full-bodied voices of Polyphony is beyond reproach, only suffering a deficit in sheer volume when pitted against the full fury of the Wallace Collection.  Sumptuously recorded in Winchester Cathedral (for the brass items) and All Saints Tooting (for the orchestra and a cappella pieces), all the forces involved play to perfection.  Greatly enjoyable and strongly recommended.

EDITOR'S CHOICE - Delicious performances of Rutter's wonderfully approachable and finely crafted vocal writing.  The sound, too, is outstanding.

Malcolm Riley 

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