Requiem of the Week: John Rutter

The Requiem by British composer John Rutter (b. 1945) was completed and first performed in 1985. An orchestra, including a harp, accompanies the choir. My church choir at the time performed this perhaps a decade after its premiere, so it was still a rather new piece.

1. Requiem aeternam. Includes the Introit from the Tridentine Requiem Mass and the Kyrie. It starts off so slowly that you may not realize it has begun. But it moves from minor key to major, making it hopeful.

2. Out of the deep. Based on Psalm 130, it may be my favorite piece in the requiem. “It contains a prominent cello solo written in C minor.” Moreover, I think, if it were rearranged, it could almost be a blues piece.

3. Pie Jesu. A motet, primarily a soprano solo, “with only slight involvement of the chorus echoing the words ‘Dona eis requiem, Dona eis sempiternam requiem'”.

4. Sanctus – Benedictus. A “bright, lively, and exclamatory movement which is brightly orchestrated with bells, flute, and oboe and occasional timpani recalling the passage in Old Testament scripture in Isaiah chapter 6, and the worship of the six-winged seraphim in the heavenly throne-room of God.” Sonically, it almost sounds Christmasy.

5. Agnus Dei – as often in requiems, a pleading. Quite stirring musically, aespecially as it crescendoes.

6. The Lord is my shepherd. A moving rendition of Psalm 23. This “was originally written in 1976 as a separate anthem,” and does stand alone. Our choir performed it as such a couple times.

7. Lux aeterna. Includes “words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Burial Service…and the communion chant from the Tridentine Requiem Mass.” A suitable ending.

The work lasts about 40 minutes.

I know the rap on the composer: “Rutter… is…hard to take seriously, because of the way in which his sheer technical facility or versatility leads to a superficial, unstable crossover style which is neither quite classical not pop, and which tends towards mawkish sentimentality in his sugarily-harmonised and orchestrated melodies.” That may be true of some of his other pieces, but I think this one works well.

Here is a recording of Requiem with Orchestra by St. Matthew’s Choir of Ealing.

Go to The John Rutter YouTube channel – search for Requiem for Rutter’s take on this piece.

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One thought on “Requiem of the Week: John Rutter

  1. Thanks Roger, for this post. I had never heard of John Rutter, but you opened a door for me to music that is so beautiful. John Rutter speaks very beautiful English, which makes it easy to listen to him. He looks a very nice person. I am going to listen to more of his work in the future.
    Thanks for your comment. I know some of the Aboriginal elders. Their story is to be found in the book one of them wrote. He told about his life and my daughter and a friend of hers wrote everything down in his own words.

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