John Rutter is one of England's best-known composers of the late twentieth century, as well as a widely respected choral conductor and music scholar and editor. While his choral works (including the Te Deum, Magnificat, and Requiem) are the most familiar, he has also written instrumental works, including a piano concerto, the Suite Antique for flute, harpsichord, and strings, and two children's operas.
Musically he could be characterizedRead more as a reactionary, as his works show very distinct influences from the past and show almost no signs of progressivism or even contemporary influences. He has a strong sense of the English musical traditions, and some of the more significant English musical influences on his work include Ralph Vaughn Williams, William Walton, and Benjamin Britten. Non-English influences include Fauré, Gregorian chant, and Bach, and his Suite Antique is a direct tribute to the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, written for the same instruments and in the same style. However, his music's immediate accessibility, being both tuneful and expressive, and its wide general appeal have still earned him a place in the English musical tradition, though not the place of an innovator, and while he is most popular in England and the United States, his music is performed worldwide.
He began his musical career as a member of the Highgate School chorus, continued to study organ, and went on to Cambridge University, where he studied at Clare College. At the age of 30, in 1975, he returned to Clare, where he was director of music. In 1979, however, he left the position in order to give more attention to composing and to conducting, though he still contributed to the study of choral music, acting as an editor in the Carols for Choirs and Oxford Choral Classics series. He formed the Cambridge Singers in 1981, though once they were established as a leading chamber choir, he left off leadership of the group, again in order to concentrate on composing and conducting. In 1985, his Requiem had its first performance, followed in 1990 by his Magnificat and his 1993 Psalmfest. In 1996, he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Music by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for his services to church music. In addition to all of these activities, he manages a CD label, Collegium Records, largely devoted to his own music. This was more or less by chance; he had no intention of doing so until an established label offered him a contract; the terms struck him as being so unsatisfactory that he decided to do it himself. Read less