Rutter: Music for Christmas (CD Review -, 2001)

In an introduction to this disc of Christmas music, John Rutter tellingly commends the Christmas carol as one of the few forms that permits "serious" composers to write tunes, regardless of whatever political correctness rules the avant-garde of the day. And he's been exploiting that licence with a vengeance ever since, as a Cambridge student, he composed the jaunty little number that remains his greatest hit--"The Shepherd's Pipe Carol". Needless to say it's on this disc, along with the good, bad and indifferent of his Christmas output through the past 40 years, immaculately sung by one of the most accomplished professional choirs in the business under its superlatively accomplished founder-director Stephen Layton.

And I defy anyone inclined to marginalise Rutter as middlebrow not to be touched by the eloquence, charm and craft of his work when it's done like this, in ideal conditions. At its worst the music is derivative but fun. At best it's irresistibly endearing. Not for nothing does he rival Howard Blake as English music's Mr Christmas, and this seasonally timed release delivers the evidence encyclopaedically - it's a perfect stocking-filler.

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