Lighten Our Darkness – Music for the Close of the Day; The Office of Compline – The Cambridge Singers/ John Rutter, conductor – Collegium Records

by | Nov 17, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Lighten Our Darkness – Music for the Close of the Day; The Office of Compline – The Cambridge Singers/ John Rutter, conductor – Collegium Records COLCD 131 (2 CDs: 77:33, 22:42) ****:

This interesting program of music sung for the end of the Church day features the ever-reliable singing of John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers, who are not a performing ensemble, but studio-bound only. Yet you would never realize it by the cohesiveness and superb ensemble characteristics that make it consistently one of Britain’s finest choral groups. In this recital Rutter avoids any of his own music, instead preferring to give us a wide selection of hymns according to the modern day office of Evensong as practiced in the Anglican Church. Some straddle the Renaissance/Reformation period (like William Byrd, who supplies a Latin motet and an English hymn), others such as Joseph Rheinberger lived well beyond that conflict, and Victoria and even Rachmaninoff  provide a smattering of fine Marian hymns, to mention just a few. All are sung to smooth perfection with the creamy Cambridge sound that has become their trademark.

The second disc is a recited/sung performance of Compline offered more as a backdrop and explanation of the first disc than for anything especially musically oriented. Modern day Evensong is a compendium of Evening Prayers and Compline, though the latter has made a comeback as a separate entity. It is nice to have.

The notes are very good except that Rutter seems to support the idea of Compline as having Benedictine origin, though it most likely was a creation from the East, mentioned as early as the forth century by Basil the Great. Also, the translation of the Rachmaninov Bogoroditsye Dyevo (‘O Mother of God and Virgin, Rejoice’) is made to be the same as the translation of the Ave Maria, when in fact the text for the former is different. The latter ends with “Holy Mother Mary, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” whereas the former ends “for Thou hast borne the Savior of our souls”. I am surprised that they didn’t catch this.

The sound is exactly what Collegium always provides for their house band, so if you like that, you will like this also. The two discs sell for the price of one, an added incentive.   

— Steven Ritter
 

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