Classical Music Home

The World's Leading Classical Music Group

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?
Keyword Search
in
 
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...


Penguin Guide, January 2009

John Rutter tells us that the wrote the Mass of the Children to join together children’s and adults’ voices, remembering his own boyhood experience, remembering his own boyhood experience, singing in the choir for the Decca recording of Britten’s War Requiem: ‘I wanted to write a work that would bring them [adults and children] together in a more joyful context than a requiem.’ The brief Wedding Canticle is written serenely for mixed choir, flute and guitar, and is directly and beautifully presented here as a closing bonus. But it did not seem an ideal choice to include on this CD Rutter’s song-cycle, Shadows, which apparently attempts to recreate the tradition of the melancholy lute songs of the Elizabethan era. They are sung simply and often mournfully by Jeremy Huw Williams, accompanied most delicately by Stewart French on the guitar. But it is the lively songs, like Gather ye rosebuds and In a goodly night, which come off best.



CNN.com, November 2006

Few of us are lucky enough to look back on childhood musical memories and answer them with composition of our own, let alone the charmingly consoling work that Englishman John Rutter brings to this recording. His 2002 "Mass of the Children," he writes, comes from his youthful singing on the first recording of the Britten "War Requiem." Looking for "a more joyful context," he has penned even a crashing "Angus Dei" that never stops searching for redemption, adult and children's voices harmonized in a reaching, bracing sonic declaration of shared support. Naxos' CD also includes the 1979 song cycle "Shadows" and the 2004 setting of the Anglican marriage text, "Wedding Canticle."



Greenfield
American Record Guide, October 2006

In his Mass for the Children, John Rutter incorporates a youth choir into the choral mix and assigns it extra-liturgical interludes, most notably Thomas Ken's 'Awake My Soul' in the Kyrie and William Blake's 'Little Lamb' in (where else?) the Agnus Dei. But, clocking in at just under 36 minutes, the Mass (Rutter's first­ever setting of the liturgy) is no Missa Brevis; each of the five sections lasts from 6 to 9 min­utes. Rutter skips the Credo. His Finale is a Dona Nobis Pacem that puts the soloists to work with sacred texts from the 5th and 16th centuries before superimposing 'Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow' from the children atop a choral Agnus Dei. It works very well-the most affecting portion of the Mass by far. Good things lurk elsewhere too, though grumpier souls will have to endure some glaringly bright orchestration (like the showbizzy opening of the Kyrie); a cuddly 'Little Lamb', and a foray or two into the soft-rock idiom to find them. (Speaking of which, the arpeggiated figure that opens the Sanctus might remind you of Chicago's golden oldie, 'Color My World'.) Inventory your spiritual tastes and act accordingly. Composed for baritone and guitar, Shadows is Rutter's first and only song cycle. The more upbeat of the eight songs seem the most assured -Dowlandesque in a couple of cases- though there are things to like in the introspective ones, too. We've come to know Rutter so well chorally that it's odd to hear him as a writer of songs. But a melodist is a melodist, and Rutter is that in spades. The choir is joined by the guitar and flute for the short, gentle, rather innocuous Wedding Canticle inspired by the 128th Psalm . Everything is brilliantly performed and caught in plush, colorful sound. Rutter is listed as both producer and engineer for this project, which makes me wonder if Naxos might consider bringing him in to consult on other releases. Choral sonics here have infinitely more presence than in, say, the Finzi Intimations (Naxos 8.557863) reviewed elsewhere in this issue. How blah those singers sound compared to these. Believe me, a Rutter on that rudder could only have helped.



Hazel Davis
MUSO, July 2006

Children's choirs - and Rutter's music, for that matter - are not everybody's cup of tea. But even the most ardent cynic couldn't fail to be warmed by this. Mass of the Children is satisfyingly melodic and just on the right side of sentimental, and the combination of adult and children's voices makes for an ambitious and stirring piece. Scored for adult choir, orchestra and children's choir, the mass was written towards the end of 2002 and received its first performance in February 2003 in New York's Carnegie Hall. On this new disc from Naxos (produced by Rutter), it is performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and Farnham Youth Choir. The mass is structured to reflect a single day - Rutter's version of 24, if you like, but with less Kiefer Sutherland - and his use of the gorgeous Winchester College hymn Awake My Soul and evening hymn Glory to Thee is inspired. The CD also features Shadaws (1979), John Rutter's only song cycle, and Wedding Canticle (2004), a setting of Psalm 128 written for Tim Brown to mark his 2Sth anniversary as director of music at Clare College. There's always room in my CD collection for Rutter and this disc is a welcome addition



Randy Anderson
June 2006

The title of this latest large-scale work from British composer John Rutter may raise a faint alarm in the back of your head, and it should: any combination of the terms "mass" and "children" is liable to refer to something cloying and saccharine. In this case, though, the music is classic Rutter: melodically accessible and maybe just a little bit oversweetened, but well within the bounds of good taste. His mass setting involves both children's and adults' voices, and scatters hymn settings in among the traditional liturgical elements. Very nice.



John Quinn
MusicWeb International, June 2006

"The choral anthem on the disc is a 2004 offering, Wedding Anthem. This was a charming gift from Rutter to Timothy Brown, who succeeded him as Director of Music at Clare College, to mark his silver jubilee in the post. The accompaniment for flute and guitar is unusual but it enhances the singing and contributes to the light, airy atmosphere of the piece. Unfortunately, my copy had a pressing fault that rendered this track unplayable after 4:18 but by then I’d heard enough to form a judgement on this enjoyable piece and the good performance it receives.

The revelation on this disc is Shadows, a 1979 composition and Rutter’s only song cycle. Indeed, I don’t recall hearing any solo songs by him previously. Written to a specific commission for baritone and guitar, it’s an overt homage to the English lute song tradition, this point being reinforced by Rutter’s choice of English poetry from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. This is a fine cycle, in which Rutter’s enviable melodic gift and his responsiveness to words are much in evidence. The first song, from which the cycle takes its name, is very atmospheric and, with its strong melodic line, makes for an impressive opening. The third song, entitled ‘Sonnet’ is a grave nocturne that evokes the world of John Dowland most suggestively. It’s followed by ‘The Epicure’, which is jolly and slightly bawdy. The longest song is the sixth, ‘O death, rock me asleep’, which is dolefully melancholic, but compelling listening. The lively ‘In a goodly night’ trips along lightly enough on the surface but if you listen closely it’s far from straightforward rhythmically. . The celebrated text, ‘Close thine eyes, and sleep secure’ makes a beautiful, dignified close to the cycle.

I was most impressed by this cycle, which is beautifully performed by Jeremy Huw Williams, who sings very well and with admirably clear diction - but the texts are supplied, which is good since the lyrics are complex and are best followed. Guitarist Stewart French partners the singer splendidly. I count this cycle a significant discovery and it certainly throws a new light on John Rutter’s music, even if one might have expected such a melodist to write good songs. I’m sure this disc will sell well, and I hope it does. Most purchasers will probably be attracted by the Mass but I hope they’ll enjoy Shadows as well. "





Robert Levine
Amazon.com, April 2006

Beginning with the last piece on this CD, we have a brief Wedding Canticle, a graceful, lovely melody sung smoothly by the choir and underpinned by the odd but also gentle combination of flute and guitar. The middle work, Shadows, is a song cycle composed in 1979 and consisting of eight songs based on 16th- and 17th-century poems; the subject matter is sleep, death and dream-states . . . The Mass of the Children, however, which takes up most of the CD, is a beautiful, affecting work. It begins with a lively tune and moves at once into a well-blended "Kyrie"; the "Benedictus" is rich and full, with both children's and adult's choirs joining together. The "Agnus Dei" incorporates William Blake's "The Lamb" into the usual text, with the kids' voices intoning it with charm, and the final "Dona nobis pacem" is warm and peaceful. This is a fine program . . . superb, and the performances are excellent.




David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com, April 2006

John Rutter's Mass of the Children was recorded by the composer and his Cambridge Singers shortly after the work's premiere in 2003. That version, for soprano and baritone soloists, children's choir, adult choir, and orchestra, appeared on Collegium Records and was strongly recommended here; for the review, which includes a discussion of the Mass itself, type Q6863 in Search Reviews. The version recorded here by the Clare College Choir (Rutter's former choir) and Timothy Brown (for whom Rutter wrote the Wedding Canticle that concludes the disc) replaces the orchestra with chamber ensemble and organ with no loss of the original's exuberant spirit or essential texture and color. These choirs are every bit as competent and confident as Rutter's own forces, but with a decided edge going to Rutter's more appealing soloists, whose voices are warmer and more technically solid. Hearing this work again, I was struck by little reminders of other composers and works, such as Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (Gloria), Fauré's Requiem (Sanctus), and even in the baritone/soprano duet in the Kyrie, a bit of (gurk!) Andrew Lloyd Webber. But these are tiny, endearing moments in a grand and often enchanting work that contains some very clever, catchy, and masterfully written sections for adult and children's choir. Rutter's setting of Blake's poem The Lamb (appropriately part of the Agnus Dei) could stand alone as a concert piece. I also love how Rutter works the tune of Tallis' famous "Canon", sung to Thomas Ken's "Glory to thee, my God, this night", into the closing Dona nobis pacem. I found it difficult, however, to warm up to Rutter's song cycle Shadows, for baritone and guitar. It has its moments of artful melodic writing and interesting guitar figures, but it often seems as if the two parts are at odds, not comfortable in each other's company. And Jeremy Huw Williams isn't the best advocate: his wide vibrato often obscures pitch, and his phrasing can be inelegant and doesn't always coincide with the musical line. The Wedding Canticle, for the unusual combination of choir, flute, and guitar, is a gentle, lovely piece that has all the marks of Rutter's most beloved style--flowing, inviting melody and a natural rhythmic feel that ideally captures the sense and structure of the text.






Famous Composers Quick Link:
Bach | Beethoven | Chopin | Dowland | Handel | Haydn | Mozart | Glazunov | Schumann | R Strauss | Vivaldi
4:06:43 AM, 20 April 2014
All Naxos Historical, Naxos Classical Archives, Naxos Jazz, Folk and Rock Legends and Naxos Nostalgia titles are not available in the United States and some titles may not be available in Australia and Singapore because these countries have copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.
Copyright © 2014 Naxos Digital Services Ltd. All rights reserved.     Terms of Use     Privacy Policy
-212-
Classical Music Home
NOTICE: This site was unavailable for several hours on Saturday, June 25th 2011 due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work. We apologize for any inconvenience.