Thursday, February 02, 2017

John Rutter: Visions

If you like John Rutter, then you'll enjoy his latest release. Although the two works featured are separated by three decades, there's a stylistic consistency that's pure Rutter.

I found the newest work, "Visions," (2016), more satisfying than 1985's "Requiem," which is paired with it here. Rutter's music always seems to have a sunny, easy-going spirit to it regardless of the subject matter.

For me, "Visions" was both uplifting and inspirational. Rutter effectively sets his mystical texts in a cloud of impressionist harmonies. The obbligato solo violin flitting through the work reminded me strongly of Ralph Vaughan William's "A Lark Ascending" (even though RVW used a viola). The music had a more expansive quality to it than most Rutter extended works, and the harmonies were a little more adventuresome.

When compared to the 1985 "Requiem," one can hear maturation in Rutter's style. It's not a dramatic change, but rather a subtle refinement of skill.

Speaking of the "Requiem," this is the second time Rutter's recorded it. I'm not sure I heard a marked difference in the interpretation between this and the original 1980s version. The advances in digital recording and mastering, though, work to the benefit of the music, making gorgeous sounds even more so.

Rutter's "Requiem" is full of rich harmonies and well-crafted melodies that are unapologetically beautiful. Rutter's style is too upbeat to create a work that mourns the loss of a life. Instead, his "Requiem" is a celebration of the soul's transition from the church militant to the church triumphant (that is, from this world to the next).

If you're a Rutter fan, then you're probably already in. If not, this may be the place to start your exploration.

John Rutter: Visions, Requiem
Visions: Kerson Leong, solo violin; The Temple Church Boy's Choir; Aurora Orchestra
Requiem: Alice Halstead, soprano; The Cambridge Singers; Aurora Orchestra
John Rutter, conductor
Collegium Records COLCD 139

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