Like George W. Bush, John Rutter is either loved or hated, and his Mass of the Children CD probably won't change many minds among either those who find his music gentle and sunny or those who deride it as hackwork. This is the first release of all-new music by Rutter in several years, and as usual he is at the helm of his handpicked Cambridge Singers, accompanied by the City of London Sinfonietta. The new wrinkle here is the inclusion of a children's choir (the excellent Cantate Youth Choir) in the titular mass, a Missa Brevis (excluding the Credo) that Rutter augments, tropewise, with poems and other texts to produce four movements of roughly equal length. Rutter lovers will be delighted with the sentiment a children's choir adds to his music; the anti-Rutter camp will contend that his Gloria sounds like music from a History Channel rerun. Some of his deployments of the children's choir are curious: why should children sing of redeeming "mis-spent time that's passed," as they do in the opening Kyrie trope from the poetry of Bishop Thomas Ken? The remainder of the CD offers recent Rutter pieces for adult choir, some with soloists. A few (hopefully neutral) observations: Rutter brings out his sentimental tendencies to the maximum when he serves as his own text-writer, and, conversely, is somewhat tempered musically by his own encyclopedic knowledge of English poetry and religious writing. In setting the Book of Ecclesiastes, he's ahead of many classical composers but still does not rise to the level of the Byrds. And finally his pieces for unaccompanied choir (the last three tracks on the album, one of which contains a solo flute part) breathe a spirit different from any of the others, with more complex harmonies, sharper contrasts, and greater seriousness overall.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Mass of the Children, for soprano, baritone, children's choir, adult choir & orchestra|