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Sea Change: The Choral Music Of Richard Rodney Bennett

Bennett / Cambridge Singers / Rutter
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Collegium Records   Catalog #: 521   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Rodney Bennett
Performer:  Charles FullbrookSue Dorey
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

At the head of my "discs of the year" choices for 2005. Such an honor centers not only on excellent sound and top-notch performances, but also on intelligent, distinctive programming, and this recording has all of those things. Most significantly, it offers music that has received inexplicably scant attention on disc, and it's given the best possible exposure by one of today's finest conductors and choirs.


The title work, Sea Change (to texts by Shakespeare, Andrew Marvell, and Edmund Spenser), sets the tone for the first half of the disc, with its Britten-esque pungent yet tonal harmonies and text-based melodic and rhythmic structures. There's an easy flow to this--and in fact, to all of these works--set in
Read more motion by the often ambiguous harmony and carried by melody that's always discernible and followable. And, as in the suddenly, surprisingly swirling, agitated vocal utterances in the movement "The waves come rolling", Bennett keeps us interested and entranced owing to his ingenious choices of texts and unfailingly evocative realizations of their moods and meanings. The choir is called upon not only to sing notes and words, but very importantly to inflect and phrase in such a way as to really make a difference between an emotional expression and a purely descriptive exclamation.


A Farewell to Arms, composed for the ensemble VocalEssence and premiered in 2002, is a masterfully written work for a cappella choir and solo cello--again featuring well-chosen, complementary texts that in this case address the theme of war, expressed primarily through an old soldier's recollection. The poems, from the 16th and 17th centuries, are poignant and timeless: "The helmet now an hive for bees becomes, And hilts of swords may serve for spiders' looms, Sharp pikes may make teeth for a rake, And the keen blade, the arch enemy of life, Shall be degraded to a pruning knife..."


A Good-Night has appeared on recordings before, and it was part of the "Garland for Linda" project, commissioned in memory of Linda McCartney. It's a simple and purely lovely motet, warm and gentle and appropriately comforting in its emotive style, reminiscent of earlier works by Stanford or Vaughan Williams or Parry. Verses sets three John Donne poems in similar fashion--with vibrant harmonies and, as always, a fond and artful attention to melody and rhythm in service of the texts. The Missa brevis is bold and powerful in its declamation of the liturgical texts--Bennett's only work in this genre--and it manages to overcome the inevitable problem of how to treat such familiar and well-used words by keeping rhythms lively, textures lean, harmonies fluid, and the movements relatively short. And as always with Bennett's choral music, the vocal writing is absolutely clear and cleanly scored, with total respect for the voices and thorough understanding of their textural possibilities.


For me the best part of the program is the last eight tracks, featuring some of Bennett's most attractive, immediately accessible, and eminently performable works, which just happen to be Christmas pieces. Five Carols consists of "There is no rose", "Out of your sleep", "That younge child", "Sweet was the song", and "Susanni", texts that have been set many times before, but never better nor with any greater sense of their intrinsic simplicity and beauty. The same is true of Bennett's lovely Lullay mine liking and his own setting of Robert Herrick's poem What sweeter music, which interestingly is the same text that John Rutter employed in the piece that launched his career as a big time choral composer.


Needless to say, the performances here are first rate--and it's a treat to hear Rutter's Cambridge Singers once again, especially in repertoire that's different from this group's usual, more traditional fare. And the sound, from LSO St. Luke's in London, ideally captures the choir's dynamic range, textural detail, and clarity of diction and articulation while placing soloists in proper spatial context. As usual with Collegium, the liner notes are thorough and very informative. Choral fans, give this your immediate attention. [3/1/2005]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing the SACD version Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Sea-Change by Richard Rodney Bennett
Performer:  Charles Fullbrook (Bells)
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983 
Language: English 
2.
Missa brevis by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990 
Language: Latin 
3.
Lullay mine liking by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Written: 1984 
Language: English 
4.
What sweeter music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
Language: English 
5.
Puer nobis by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; England 
Language: English 
6.
A Farewell to Arms by Richard Rodney Bennett
Performer:  Sue Dorey (Cello)
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001 
7.
A Good-Night by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
8.
Verses (3) by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965 
9.
Carols (5): no 1, There is no rose by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
10.
Carols (5): no 2, Out of your sleep by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
11.
Carols (5): no 3: That younge child by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
12.
Carols (5): no 4, Sweet was the song by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
13.
Carols (5): no 5, Susanni by Richard Rodney Bennett
Conductor:  John Rutter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 

Sound Samples

Sea Change: The isle is full of noises
Sea Change: The Bermudas
Sea Change: The waves come rolling
Sea Change: Full fathom five
A Farewell to Arms
A Good-Night
Verses
Missa brevis: Kyrie
Missa brevis: Gloria
Missa brevis: Sanctus
Missa brevis: Agnus Dei
5 Carols: No. 1: There is no rose
5 Carols: No. 2: Out of your sleep
5 Carols: No. 3: That younge child
5 Carols: No. 4: Sweet was the song
5 Carols: No. 5: Susanni
Lullay Mine Liking
What sweeter music
Puer nobis

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