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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The newest Naxos recording of the Requiem tends to trump all previous versions, even the composer’s own very fine account. Recorded in the expansive acoustic of Douai Abbey, Berkshire, it is very beautifully sung indeed, joyful in the Sanctus and darkly dramatic in the Agnus Dei with its steady drum beat. Elin Manahan Thomas is an ideal soloist singing the Pie Jesu with touching simplicity, and rising up celestially in the Lux aeterna. Christopher Hoker’s oboe obbligato in The Lord is my Shepherd is comparably sensitive. The extra items are equally successful, the exultant Advent anthem, Arise, Shine contrasting with the opulent Howells-like piece for double choir, Come down O Love Divine, and the soaring Latin anthem, with its pastoral flute, Rutter’s favourite woodwind instrument. The Two Blessings, with their easy melodic flow, are rather like Rutter’s carols, and the pair of thematically linked organ voluntaries, the first immediately rhythmically catchy, the duet Variations, sonorous and unpredictable, round off the programme most satisfyingly. Both are very well played, indeed, and the recording is first class.

Lindsay Koob
American Record Guide, August 2003

"A lovely and worthwhile recording it is, in every respect. That Rutter, in this day and age, can consistently produce music of such vitality and visceral appeal as this while remaining well within the bounds of conventional tonality is a source of continuing wonder. It must have something to do with his amazing stylistic diversity-his chameleon-like ability to take the moods and sounds from an incredible range of influences, ranging from plainchant to modern jazz and blues, and somehow mix them into a convincing whole.

Rutter's Requiem, from 1985, is wildly popular among modern choirs, audiences, and record shoppers. It is offered here in the world premiere recording of its chamber version, making what is considered a concert piece more suitable for liturgical purposes or intimate venues. This, along with many of his other works, has a direct, uncluttered, almost folksy air to it, while hardly ever lapsing into banality. Just when you begin to think, "Ah, I've heard this kind of stuff before", up Rutter comes with some ingenious device or harmonic twist that grabs even the most jaded ear. And he knows how to hold such a comparatively larger-scale composition together, too.

Rutter's chief role model, Herbert Howells, also wrote an "unconventional" requiem- with varied but mostly familiar texts from a wide array of sources. Among these are the standard Latin requiem mass, biblical psalms, and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. He indulges his frequent habit of setting Latin and English together in the same work or movement here, too-with each text complementing the other-a trick he probably picked up from Benjamin Britten. And he can set texts with the best, giving them heaven-seeking musical wings.

This is one of Rutter's finest and most convincing works. It consoles, implores, worships, affirms, reassures, and mystifies-everything that a good requiem is supposed to do. Instrumental accompaniment (single flute, oboe, cello, harp, and timpani, plus percussion) is spare, but expert and tasteful. Lovely obbligato passages for solo flute, oboe, or cello attend some of the work's most appealing moments. Along with a choir of less than 30, it makes for a cozy and intimate performance.

The choice assortment of shorter pieces includes two touching choral blessings and three fine anthems-one of them the poignant 'Musica Dei Donum'-among the pieces chosen by Sir Paul McCartney for A Garland for Linda. The other two anthems, 'Arise, Shine' and 'Come Down, 0 Love Divine', are given their premiere recordings here. The program comes to an energetic close with two brilliant pieces for organ: the bright and punchy Toccata in Seven, and the Variations on an Easter Theme, a fascinating work for organ duet.

Rutter has a long and fruitful history with the Clare College Choir, having led them himself in quite a few outstanding recordings. They perform here with their usual depth, sensitivity, technical finesse, and bright, clear sound. Thomas's light and lovely soprano is a real treat, and Collon offers sensitive support as well as virtuoso solo work at the organ (Rimmer joins him only for the final duet). The slightly reverberant sound is very fine, hardly muddying the choir's transparent sonorities. Notes and texts leave nothing to be desired...If you don't know what the fuss over Rutter is all about, or if you don't have anything from him in your collection, Naxos's bargain price makes this irresistible."

Mary Kunz
The Buffalo News, May 2003

"The performance shines like stained-glass windows, in bright, primary colors. It's enough to make anyone rejoice. **** Stars"

Los Angeles Times, May 2003

"Rutter's 1985 Requiem carries on the tradition of consoling requiems à la Brahms, Fauré and Duruflé - as opposed to the wrath-of-God school of Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi. The language is consonant and melodic, the tone as uplifting as Bernstein at his most optimistic. Rutter led the premiere recording of the chamber orchestra version in 1986 (Collegium), and he produced this new budget-priced edition of the version for organ and instrumental sextet. The reduced version is paradoxically more imposing than the orchestral one - thanks to the deep-bass organ underpinning - and the brisker tempos, reduced instrumentation and clearer sound of this performance make Rutter's tunes shine more brightly. Naxos also throws in two blessings for choir and organ that sound like pop ballads, a trio of somewhat more austere choral anthems, and two flashy examples of Rutter's solo organ music."

James Jolly
Gramophone, May 2003

"One of the most performed Requiems of the modern age, John Rutter's dates from 1990. It does not present insuperable demands to its performers and as a result has been taken up by amateur choirs the world over. Naxos continues its conquest of Cambridge's college choirs and finds that from Clare College on excellent form. I suspect this will be one of those Naxos recordings that sells by the ten thousand rather than merely the thousand. If your tooth inclines to the sweet, this is one for you."

John Steane
Gramophone, May 2003

"Fresh, natural performances by Rutter's original Cambridge choir, plus rarely heard organ pieces. Naxos has done well to invite the choir of Rutter's own Cambridge college to represent him in its catalogue, which certainly could not have gone much longer without something of the man who has become the most popular British composer of choral music in recent years."


"Another splendid choral recording, just pipped by a whisker as my Recording of the Year by the Tenebrae disc. This CD features the first ever recording of the alternative, small ensemble scoring of John Rutter's moving and eloquent Requiem. In my original review I weighed up the pros and cons of this recording against the composer's own in which he uses the fuller orchestral version. There are points in favour of both (excellent) recordings although the reduced scoring produces a greater intimacy, which some collectors may prefer. There is no doubt that this new recording is exceptionally fine with the Clare College choir on top of their very considerable form. A selection of shorter choral pieces and two organ works complete a very desirable programme. This CD is another feather in the Naxos cap and is urgently recommended."

Scott Morrison,

"This disc is lovely from start to finish and is enthusiastically recommended to choristers, organists, choir directors and, most of all, music lovers of all stripes."

David Vernier

The Clare College Choir, with whom Rutter has a history both during his days as a music student and later as the choir's director, gives the kind of technically solid and interpretively meaningful performance that we would expect, considering the composer's hands-on involvement and well-known concern for accuracy, both musical and sonic. Like Caroline Ashton on Rutter's Collegium disc, Clare's Elin Manahan Thomas delivers the soprano solos with a clear, ringing, effortlessly natural quality, and the choir is a model of responsiveness and sensitivity in phrasing and dynamics, preserving ideal balance across registers and among vocal sections.

The sound, from Berkshire, England's Douai Abbey, provides ideal space and resonance for these eminently singable--and listenable--pieces, works that belong in the collection of every true lover of choral music."

Raymond Tuttle
Classical Net

"This is the premiere recording of the version for chamber orchestra...The singing is touching and intimate, and technically accomplished without calling attention to itself. Kudos to soprano Elin Manahan Thomas who negotiates the occasional solo line with humble radiance...This is an interesting road that Naxos has taken, and I hope that the label will return to Clare College and Rutter's music."

Robert Croan
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Good value on this mid-priced label: a solid, uncut performance (from Budapest) with lots of vitality. Naxos also offers a useful "Introduction to 'The Barber of Seville' " in its Opera Explained series."

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