Rutter: Gloria (CD Review - International Record Review, 2001)

This ample anthology, poignantly dedicated to the memory of the composer's son, opens with a triumphantly exuberant performance of the Gloria, which deservedly remains one of John Rutter's most popular works. Polyphony not only perfectly complement the instrumental sparks of the outer movements, but give an extremely sensitive rendition of the reflective middle section. The Te Deum, which inhabits a similar sound-world, is given an equally impressive performance. Come down, O Love divine, a lyrical, ardent work which at times suggests Britten, is a very impressive achievement indeed, beautifully written and sublimely sung.

Also decidedly effective is I my Best-Beloved's am, which gains its distinctive character from its plainsong inflexions. I cannot be so enthusiastic about Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace, whose use of stylistic cliché (Sondheim and Mahler, as the composer has affirmed) imparts a soupy sentimentality to St Francis of Assisi's text, and I have similar reservations about To everything there is a season. This is the kind of writing for which Rutter is famous, of course, but there's no getting around the fact that you either love it or loathe it. Appropriately enough for an American commission, there is something of a Copland-like sense of space about I will life up mine eyes, but once again its lyrical qualities, its technical competence (and impressive orchestral introduction) do not quite compensate for its predictable inoffensiveness. For those who admire Rutter's work, this disc, performed as it is in such an exemplary fashion, will be a festival.

For those who, like myself, have reservations, it will nevertheless offer excellent performances of two of his best ceremonial pieces and, in Come down, O Love divine and I my Best-Beloved's am, introduce aspects of the composer's work that are less familiar and reveal, in greater measure, his very great gifts.

Ivan Moody 

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