CD Review

Music by John Rutter


© Chris Green, November 2008

John Rutter must be one of the best known of contemporary British composers. I first met John when he agreed to be interviewed by me at a Suffolk radio station. That was in the mid 1970s and coincided with a release of an LP featuring his Beatles Concerto which got to a No 1 spot in one of the British charts. Despite its popularity, I mentioned the existence of this album to a senior recording executive in the company that released it, and she confessed she had not heard of it! So, that shows my age.

Anyway, since then John has gone to create his own recording company, compose much more fine music, undertake hundreds of conducting commitments and workshops, and he has also become President of one of my music groups, Trianon Music Group.

Christmas is the time when John Rutter's music features in many programmes, because he is to the carol what Johann Strauss was to the salon waltz, polka and march. The comparison stops there. However there are similarities: both write exceptionally good tunes, carefully crafted for voices often with sympathetic and finely balanced accompaniments. John also has written some eminently listenable orchestral music.

However, there is now a flurry of new albums so this review features just a few of them. John Rutter's The Choral Collection is entitled The Gift of Music (Universal 476 3068). Drawing on back recordings, John Rutter conducts the Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia (with the BBC Concert orchestra used for two tracks) in 22 tracks. The majority of pieces are from John Rutter's sacred compositions with six secular works including The Gift of Music, and the programme ends with two carols.

Carols there are in plenty with A Christmas Festival featuring the composer conducting the Cambridge Singers, Farnham Youth Choir and Royal Philharmonic orchestra. This is a brand new release on John Rutter's own Collegium label (COLCD 133) and combines carol arrangements with originals and some orchestral interludes by others such as Delius and Nigel Hess. Well balanced and engineered, the recording was made in the RPO's home at Cadogan Hall, London with the organ dubbed from the Royal Albert Hall.

If Universal called their new alum The Ultimate Collection, there is a slight risk of confusion with EMI's three CD album entitled The Platinum Collection - John Rutter (EMI 5 07857 2). The difference is that most of the latter recordings have been available before and consist of a number of complete works such as his Gloria, Magnificat and Requiem. Disc 3 comprises carols settings and arrangements, although not the most imaginative programming for that part of the programme performed as it is by John Rutter's former Cambridge College, Clare College.

So to the latest recording, released mid November 2008 from Universal Classics. John Rutter, the Ultimate Collection (Universal 178 540-0). The usual team is involved with John Rutter at the helm, the Cambridge Singers as polished as ever, and the City of London Sinfonia making a distinctive contribution. So, there we are, a quartet of discs reflecting the contribution John Rutter has made to the world of classical music.