Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

John Rutter, Psalmfest

The late jazz composer-saxophonist icon Ornette Colemen once remarked something to the effect that "there is no such thing as bad music, only bad musicians."  Now in terms of jazz that may have great truth. In terms of classical, there most certainly can be bad music that no great performance can save. On the other hand there is much excellent music out there that can be negated with lackluster or uninspired performances. John Rutter (b. 1943) and his choral-orchestra work Psalmfest (Naxos 8.573394) strikes me that latter way. It is enjoying its World Premiere recording (revised version) here by the Choirs of St Albans Cathedral and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Lucas. It is music that is undeniably written to be performed well and enthusiastically. (You might say that of many compositions, maybe even all, but Psalmfest hits me as especially of that nature.)

Thankfully the amassed choirs, soloists, and orchestra give us an exceedingly beautiful reading of the work. The music has a distinctly English feel to it--Vaughan Williams is somewhere lurking in the wings, perhaps. There is a kind of accessibility to its melodiousness that would perhaps fall a bit flat in lesser hands. The "Psalmfest" (1993) and the related shorter works "This is the Day" (2011), "Lord, Thou hast been our refuge" (2008), and "Psalm 150" (2002), all included here, are a joyful, ecstatic group of works that shine brightly thanks to the beautiful singing of the St Alban Choirs and the nicely articulated orchestral performances, and of course the poetic joy of the Psalms of David.

This is not precisely modernist music, but it is music with a traditional 20th century lineage yet a contemporary rhapsodical feel. There is a kind of sureness, a mastery of the forces at hand that marks John Rutter as special. The music is very moving and I respond to these performances readily and most pleasurably. Anyone taken by the choral medium I believe will feel the same way. So I do heartily recommend this disk.

No comments:

Post a Comment