Music for the masses
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 09/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc is a bit different from many of the Cambridge Singers' discs in that it is exclusively secular songs. They have retained one of their favourite recording spaces, the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral, a structure well atuned to a capella singing (it has a natural nine second delay in the cathedral). This recording was John Rutter's first album on American Gramaphone Records.
Madrigals are songs that have various purposes. They can be for private or public entertainment; they can be together with dramatic performances or played on their own. Petrarch is the inspiration of many madrigal texts, and folk songs also feature significantly. The English Madrigal School took full bloom during the golden age of Elizabeth; by the middle of the seventeenth century, the era of composition of the madrigal was essentially over. However, they have remained a popular pieces for performance, and many modern composers have arranged them, including on this disc Holst, Vaughan Williams and the Cambridge Singers director, Rutter.
Madrigals are often upbeat, happy, sometimes poignant, and lively. Some madrigals incorporate humour and jokes. There are exceptions to all of these, to be sure, including among the songs on this disc. Perhaps the best known madrigal in modern times, Greensleeves, is presented as the last piece on this disc, here in an arrangement by Vaughan Williams. There are lively emotions and sombre tones here, all sung with grace and consistent quality.
Unlike many of the Cambridge Singers' CDs' liner notes, this one has a biographical sketch of John Rutter, a description of the setting at Ely Cathedral, a listing of the singers, and an essay about madigrals. Also unlike other CDs of theirs, this one does not include the words to the songs, a missing piece that would be helpful for many of the songs.
Rutter was born in London and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. This was where his career as a composer, arranger and conductor began. His early work was with groups at King's College Chapel at Cambridge as well as the Bath Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked for the BBC providing music for educational series such as 'The Archaeology of the Bible Lands', until in 1979 he began forming the Cambridge Singers, and has continued a remarkable career of performance and recording as their director ever since.
--The Cambridge Singers--
The Cambridge Singers are a mixed choir of voices, many of whom were members of choir of Rutter's college, Clare College, Cambridge. While they specialise in English and Latin liturgical pieces, they have a wide range of recordings that span from modern compositions (including a remarkable requiem by Rutter) to English folk songs of the Middle Ages. Many are former members of the choir of Clare College and other Cambridge collegiate choirs (hence the name, Cambridge Singers). In the quarter-century since the founding, the Cambridge Singers have produced an impressive body of recordings.
This is a fun and fabulous recording.
A tasteful and beautiful collection
FrKurt Messick | 08/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc furthers my belief that madrigals are the best forum for a capella voice. Each song is unique and beautiful, and the sequencing allows a very smooth flow. Better-known works such as "Month of Maying" or "April is in my Mistress' Face" are perhaps most representative of the style, but included here are many lesser-known gems that you're sure to enjoy. The Cambridge Singers use their obviously well-honed skills to great results, from the more frivolous tracks to the darker, more solemn ones. Very highly recommended."
Beautiful but perhaps overly solemn for some selections
Algernon D'Ammassa | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/18/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The splendor of these arrangements and the setting confer on all of these traditional madrigals (and some newer arrangements: Side B is dominated by twentieth century arrangements) a certain solemnity and a certain stately pace (so the lyrics are not lost in the echo of the cathedral). This leaves a strange effect on some selections, such as "Now Is The Month of Maying," which is about, um, springtime urges and here sounds oddly like a mass."