Rutter: Mass Of The Children / Rutter, Cambridge Singers
The opening of the outstanding Mass of the Children (a work completed in early 2003 and first performed at a Carnegie Hall concert) is full of promise, its exciting, engaging, Britten-esque tune for children's chorus capturing our attention and setting the stage for a fresh, new experience. I only wish that Rutter had continued with this idea and developed it--or at least played off its dancing, jaunty style. But instead the children's song melds (albeit very nicely and easily) into a Kyrie that's more comfortably in the traditional Rutter character--a perfectly effective transition and comprised of very fine, well-fashioned music, but leaving us to imagine what greater adventures might have been.
There are many more marvelous passages for the children's voices, including the lovely Benedictus, a lilting, Siciliana-like section whose initial gentleness expands into a full-bodied expression, joined by the adult choir and soloists. One of the more affecting passages--and most impressive in terms of text setting, mood, and orchestration--is the Agnus Dei, whose opening minutes capture the profound seriousness and eternal consequences of our plea for mercy. Just as suddenly, the children take over with a tender, beguiling setting of William Blake's The Lamb, returning our thoughts to the innocent one who "became a little child", the one to whom we pray. Then, not unsurprisingly for this optimistic composer, we're left with a Dona nobis pacem benediction that's as strongly reassuring as we can imagine. In addition to the standard Latin Missa brevis texts, Rutter also characteristically organizes his material by inserting texts from other sources, "giving the whole work the framework of a complete day, from waking to sleeping", beginning and ending with settings of a morning and evening hymn by Bishop Thomas Ken.
The remaining works are highlighted by A Clare Benediction (which Rutter wrote for his alma mater), the a cappella Musica Dei donum (widely known for its inclusion in the tribute to Linda McCartney, A Garland for Linda), and an unusual and quite demanding setting of Come down, O Love divine for unaccompanied double choir. The Cambridge Singers (whose roster shows a major turnover of singers from its last incarnation) is as vocally well-matched, technically polished, and musically involving as always. The Cantate Youth Choir is a delight, and the two soloists are ideal. The sound grants both spaciousness and warmth to the singers and orchestra, so that in all it's hard to imagine a session with this recording that would be anything less than satisfying, especially for Rutter fans, who will have to have this--and who will be thrilled to have a new release from this revered composer and his choir, whose recordings during the past few years have been all too few and far between. [9/8/2003]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: COLCD129
Composer: John Rutter
Conductor: John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble: Cambridge Singers, Cantate Youth Chorus, City of London Sinfonia
Performer: Elin Manahan Thomas, Joanne Lunn, Karen Jones, Roderick Williams, Simon Wall