ALBUM TITLE: Rubbra
WORKS: Missa Cantuariensis, Op. 59; Missa in Honorem Sancti Dominici, Op. 66
PERFORMER: St Margaret’s Westminster Singers/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10423
Reviewing the Naxos recording of the Missa in Honorem Sancti Domenici/> in April 2001, I suggested that those who respect Rubbra the symphonist without warming to him may find the religious choral music more compelling. Listening to this version of the Missa, originally released by RCA in 1975, I still think that. But although this performance is well controlled with an appealing chaste intensity – especially in the wonderful hushed opening of the Sanctus – the Naxos programme is more interesting, and a lot more generous.
It’s interesting to compare the Missa in Hororem Sancti Domenici – written after Rubbra’s mid-life conversion to Roman Catholicism – with the earlier Missa Cantuariensis: well crafted, and not unimaginative, there’s still something rather workmanlike about it. The placing of the Gloria last as a rousing finale doesn’t quite come off, while the unison-chanted Credo, with organ accompaniment, is frankly dreary. Perhaps the St Margaret’s Westminster Singers could have made a stronger case for it, perhaps not. The recording doesn’t help: the spacious acoustic is atmospheric enough, but the choir sounds slightly distant, with treble tone rather dull. A respectable recording, but not one to make many converts. Stephen Johnson