John Rutter (1945-  ):  Requiem

The Requiem was written in 1985 in response to the death of the composer’s father the previous year.  (A requiem is a version of the mass used at funerals and to commemorate the departed.)  Rutter drew musical inspiration much more from the tender intimacy of Fauré’s Requiem than from the monumental drama of those by Verdi or Britten.  He uses carefully chosen extracts from the conventional sections of the requiem mass (Requiem aeternam, Kyrie, Dies Irae, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna) alongside settings of Psalms 130 and 23 and, at one point, words from the Church of England burial service.  

The whole work has a symmetrical structure of seven movements, the Sanctus at the centre being framed on each side by a sequence of prayer-psalm-prayer.  The two psalm movements make striking use of solo instruments and plainsong-like melodies; and indeed the whole pattern is reinforced by the musical treatment, making this an agreeably satisfying - as well as hauntingly beautiful - work to listen to.

Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809): 
Missa Sancti Nicolai

This mass, in the key of G major, was written in 1772 to celebrate the nameday of Prince Nicolaus Esterházy, possibly as a ‘thank you’ to the Prince for agreeing to the court’s returning earlier than usual to Eisenstadt after its summer sojourn in Hungary – an outsize hint about this had famously been dropped in the ‘Farewell’ Symphony (no. 45) earlier in the year. Although the mass has each of the usual six sections – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei – it is relatively short.  However, the music is unfailingly graceful and lyrical, with a simple appeal which cannot but enchant the listener.  It is very surprising that it is not better known.

 Haydn scored the mass for string orchestra with oboes, horns and organ.  In a later revision he added other instruments, possibly to support a larger choir; but the original light scoring seems more appropriate to the intimate nature of the work and translates well to organ accompaniment.

The programme will also include a selection of Christmas carols, including one with a special connection to NYC.

Peter Harbord,  North Yorkshire Chorus

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