Rubbra: Lauda Sion; Mass in Honour of St Teresa of Avila; Missa a 3; Motets, Op. 37; Madrigals, Opp. 51 & 52

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COMPOSERS: Rubbra
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Lauda Sion; Mass in Honour of St Teresa of Avila; Missa a 3; Motets, Op. 37; Madrigals, Opp. 51 & 52
PERFORMER: Voces Sacrae/Judy Martin
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1093
Regarded as something of a connoisseur’s composer even during his own lifetime, Edmund Rubbra (1901-86) wrote symphonies and Masses that failed to enter the repertoire, yet which have remained alive through occasional recordings – of which this new collection is a chef d’oeuvre. Though a pupil of Holst, Rubbra placed his dissonance less in the clash of lines or choice of particular chords than in careful placing of unrelated triads, owing something to Vaughan Williams, but more to 16th-century English music. A plainsong flavour adds to the sense of music out of its time, yet still part of the 20th century.

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A quality of restrained beauty characterises the choral music; there’s nothing in excess. Yet as Rubbra’s fine performers here make clear in the magnificent Lauda Sion, the muse may often exult and uplift the listener. Concision of thought and texture mark the three-part Mass and late St Teresa of Avila Mass. Rubbra’s distinctive sympathies emerge most clearly, perhaps, in the Five Motets, Op. 37, and Five Madrigals, Op. 51, conveying a complete absorption in the spirit of their chosen poets, Campion, Vaughan, Crashaw et al, yet conceived in terms of a craftsman’s technique that few composers today could hope to muster. Nicholas Williams