Rutter: Mass of the Children; Shadows; Wedding Canticle

COMPOSERS: Rutter
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Rutter
WORKS: Mass of the Children; Shadows; Wedding Canticle
PERFORMER: Angharad Gruffydd-Jones (soprano), Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone); Choir of Clare College, Cambridge; Farnham Youth Choir/Timothy Brown
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557922
As Willy Wonka is to his Chocolate Factory, so John Rutter is to the choral world; the purveyor of enchanting, sugary unreality. The Mass of the Children is a chocolate river of a piece, lusciously and colourfully made to flow by Clare College Choir, Farnham Youth Choir and various excellent instrumentalists. It’s lovingly, winsomely shaped by these talented forces. Rutter’s own recording on Collegium is slightly broader canvas, using the City of London Sinfonia, but the present version is no second fiddle. The additional choral repertoire on Collegium appeals to me more – Naxos have elected to further the sugar high with the Wedding Canticle, a fantasy land of flute, guitar and choir. It’s funny how music whose imperative is not creative necessity but public likeability can inspire a curiously disengaged performance, to which end Clare’s guileless, floaty rendition has a rightness about it.

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I’m afraid the third component of the disc, the song-cycle, Shadows, is less joyous. Jeremy Huw Williams is a stalwart of the Welsh operatic stage, and what is clearly a useful voice for these premises is too monotone for these quasi-lute songs. The intimacy of the recording verges on the claustrophobic, too, which doesn’t help, though elsewhere Naxos does a sparkling job with the sound. William Whitehead