Composer John Rutter to appear with US choirs and soloist on Tuesday 27 June at Bath Abbey
MidAm International proudly announces a special 40th anniversary gala concert featuring John Rutter conducting his own works and members of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra with choirs from the US. John Rutter, CBE will conduct his Requiem, Magnificat, and Te Deum with Lucy Crowe, soprano soloist. This is John Rutter’s 138th Appearance on the MidAmerica Productions and MidAm International Series Since 1988.
Participating choruses include Douglas County Chamber Singers Douglasville, GA (Sandra Chandler, Director) First Presbyterian Church, Bonita Springs Bonita Springs, FL (Jeffrey Faux, Director) Palmetto Voices Winston-Salem, NC (Sonja Sepúlveda, Director) Peninsula Musical Arts Association Foster City, CA (Mary Lynn Wilson, Director) Vienna choral society McLean, VA (Mike Horanski, Director) Viva La Musica! Foster City, CA (Shulamit Hoffmann, Director).
About John Rutter’s Requiem
Composed in 1985, and first performed in October of that year in Dallas, Texas, the Requiem by John Rutter is one of the latest works in a grand tradition of the settings of texts in commemoration of the dead, settings intended essentially or completely as concert works rather than for liturgical usage.
As with many past composers in this tradition, Rutter has treated his texts freely and has used the title of Requiem as an umbrella for a work that is not strictly tied to the Roman Catholic Office of the Dead. Rutter specifically cites the examples of Fauré and Brahms as precedents, and his choices put him somewhere between those two.
Whereas Fauré’s Requiem retains the traditional Latin liturgical texts, if in abridged and selected form, Brahms’ A German Requiem abandons them completely in favor of highly personalized Scriptural selections from the Luther Bible in German, with contemplative rather than liturgical intent.
By contrast, Rutter takes a middle ground, choosing texts both from liturgical Latin and Scriptural vernacular. The selection is, again, highly personal, disposed so as to form “anarch-like meditation on the themes of life and death,”to use the composer’s own words. “The first and last movements, which are set to the ‘correct’ liturgical texts [i.e. from the Latin Requiem Mass], are prayers to God the Father; the second and sixth movements are English psalm settings, both with important instrumental obbligatos; the third and fifth (from the Missa pro defunctis again) are prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory. Texts from the Anglican Burial Service of 1662 [from The Book of Common Prayer] are woven into the fifth and seventh movements, as commentary and prelude, respectively.” John Rutter has come by all these sources legitimately. Born in 1945, Rutter was trained at Cambridge University, and later held posts there. He began serious composition in his teens, first with arrangements of Christmas carols.
He has ranged from choral into orchestral composition, producing concert and film scores and music for the stage. He has been active as a musicologist, as well as a performing musician. But his base of perspective has continued to be the Anglican choral style. He has composed a significant amount of choral music, both sacred and secular. Prior to his Requiem, his most successful composition was his Gloria, composed in a direct concert style. Dating from 1974, it also, like the later work, has American associations, having been composed for and performed first in Omaha, Nebraska. Another of Rutter’s involvements, however, explains qualities of his Requiem.
In his capacity as a musicologist, Rutter began exploring the very complicated evolution of Fauré’s Requiem score, recognizing that the beloved version of this work now “standard” as a repertoire staple, the version completed in 1900, was only an indirect and several-stages-removed extension of the composer’s original ideas. Not only was the work as a whole revised repeatedly, but its original scoring, for small orchestra, was expanded in several stages and finally given its full-orchestra form for the 1900 edition, not by the composer himself, apparently, but by his student, Jean Roger-Ducasse. Rutter dug into the sources and came up with a reconstruction of the work as of its 1893 state, recapturing a leaner, more intimate and more liturgical texture. This reconstruction has been both published and recorded by Rutter. In addition,Rutter has furthered analogies by preparing his own Requiem in alternate performing editions, one for organ and six instruments, as well as the original, with full-orchestral accompaniment (the one used in this performance). – by John Barker
About John Rutter’s Te Deum
John Rutter’s Te Deum was written in 1988 for a service of thanksgiving in Canterbury Cathedral. Liturgical considerations and the spacious acoustics of the great building dictated a brief, straight-forward setting of the ancient and inspiring text–not in Latin but, according to Anglican custom, in the lofty, noble translation of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
About John Rutter’s Magnificat
Rutter’s Magnificat was first performed in 1990 in Carnegie Hall, New York, conducted by the composer and commissioned by MidAmerica Productions and the UK première followed a year later in Coventry Cathedral.
The Magnificat – the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke I: 46-55) – traditionally formed part of the ancient service of Vespers in the medieval Roman rite. After the Reformation it was incorporated into the evening services of the Lutheran and Anglican churches, where it was linked with the Nunc Dimittis. The Magnificat has been set to music more often than any liturgical text other than the Mass itself, in settings that vary enormously in style and scale, from the purity of Palestrina’s exquisite four-part unaccompanied compositions to Monteverdi’s grand, dramatic settings written for St Mark’s, Venice, and later the almost symphonic conception of Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, of which the Magnificat forms the final movement, written in 1780 for use in Salzburg Cathedral.
John Rutter’s initial inspiration for his Magnificat was another great masterpiece – that of J.S.Bach, though he has also revealed that he found the task of following in Bach’s footsteps a somewhat daunting prospect, as indeed any composer might. Despite the fact that the two works are about as different in style as they could possibly be, they nevertheless do share some basic similarities. For instance, both pieces conclude with a reiteration of the music of their opening movements, both make use of traditional Gregorian plainsong melodies, and in both works the focus is on the soloist for the more reflective verses, while the chorus is called upon to provide some appropriate vocal muscle in robust sections of the text such as ‘Fecit potentiam in brachio suo’ (He hath showed strength with his arm). And just as Bach included several additional Christmas movements in the original E-flat version of his Magnificat, so too Rutter incorporates three extra elements into the standard Latin text. Particularly memorable is his haunting setting of the beautiful 15th century poem, ‘Of a Rose, a lovely Rose’, which uses the image of a rose as an allegory for the Blessed Virgin Mary and her powers to intercede for mankind. The other two supplementary texts are the Sanctus from the Ordinary of the Mass, and a Marian antiphon, ‘Sancta Maria’ (Holy Mary).
John Rutter has stated that his intention was to write a Magnificat redolent of Mediterranean sunshine and celebration, evoking the spirit of the many exuberant festivals held throughout Europe in honour of the Virgin Mary. To this end, the work is full of energetic, syncopated rhythms and strong melodies, with more than a hint of the musical theatre from time to time. Rutter’s music is always beautifully written for the voice and superbly orchestrated, and although his unashamedly popular style has won him few friends amongst the upper reaches of the musical establishment, choral societies and audiences throughout the world have responded with wholehearted enthusiasm to its uninhibited tunefulness.
About MidAmerica Productions and Midam International
Peter Tiboris created and conducted his first concert in New York on January 7, 1984, at Lincoln Center, featuring The American Symphony Orchestra, soloists, and three choruses, the Louisiana Chorale of Acadiana, Camerata Singers of Baton Rouge, and Collegiate Chorale of New York. For 40 years, MidAmerica Productions has brought together conductors, soloists, and choral and orchestral ensembles from the U.S. and abroad to appear at New York’s top venues, including Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Weill Recital Hall, and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; and Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center. In addition to presenting orchestral and choral works, MidAmerica Productions has championed contemporary composers with 98 World Premieres, 38 United States Premieres, and 121 New York Premieres.
In 2004, MidAm International, Inc. was formed to support MidAmerica’s growing presence in Europe. Since then, concerts have taken place in Vienna, Salzburg, Florence, Verona, Paris, Lisbon, Porto, Athens, and Syros, with concerts slated in 2024 for Warsaw, Florence, Verona, Venice, Lake Garda, Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, Athens, Syros, Lisbon, Porto, and London.