Despite his instantly recognisable style, he is an unashamedly eclectic composer. There were echoes of Britten and Vaughan Williams, and especially Walton's ceremonial manner in Rutter's Gloria (1974) and Psalm 150 (2002). Both these big, celebratory works represented Rutter speaking in his assured public voice, stirring enough in its brassy self-confidence, but the delicately wrought opening of the Gloria's central movement agreeably revealed a more individual musical character beneath the surface rhetoric.
Cantus (1997), for choir and brass ensemble, intrigued with its atmospheric, subtly shifting textures. Though "Alleluia" was the only word sung, this introspective piece was worlds apart from the numbing grind of "holy minimalism". The composer ensured that every declaration of the word was clothed in different colours. The result was deeply affecting, as kaleidoscopic fluctuations of temper artlessly embraced a conflicting variety of emotions. Birthday Madrigals (1995) found the composer in relaxed and humorous mood. Juxtaposing jazzy, Mancini-like settings of texts from the madrigal era with more traditional English part-songs, this piece elicited spontaneous applause from the audience.
The choir was on excellent form, visibly responding to Peter Broadbent's assured and relaxed direction. This was not the slickest show in town, as the brass players were unconscionably late for their first appearance and one of the timpanist's sticks flew into the audience. No matter, for here was hearty, fervent music-making among friends, which is surely how this dedicated composer would have wished to spend his significant birthday.
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