GMCD 7238 – Sermon on the Mount – Choir & Organ by Carl Rütti
Escorial Choir, Christopher Duarte – Director, Carl Rütti – Organ
Organists’ Review August 2003
A disc of accessible music by Carl Rütti, a Swiss composer who has studied in London, had a piece performed at the Proms in 1999 and has absorbed much of what it meant to compose choral music in 20th century Britain. None of the pieces presented here is overly outlandish, but all have something worthwhile to say: there is influence aplenty from a whole host of British composers from Holst onwards through Britten to Leighton and Jackson, yet Rütti has his own voice that illuminates his interesting choices of text.
The three carols give new life to familiar words, and like many of the other works are relatively diatonic with some chromatic leanings and a melodic interest that would add freshness to any carol concert. Elsewhere, St Peter & St Paul is a quite substantial work (commissioned for the 1997 Norwich Festival) that features some syncopated rhythms and dramatic climaxes; Salve Regina on the other hand typifies the composer’s more languid style and makes play with the whole-tone scale, being remarkably reminiscent of some of Holst’s Hymns from the Rig Veda. The main piece featured, Sermon on the Mount, is a 7-movement work lasting 30 minutes, setting Latin words from the familiar chapters of St Matthew and St Luke: the music is lyrical and dramatic by turns, and
ends most effectively by combining different themes and styles in a final, exuberant Amen. The composer’s general approach is to create a dialogue between (usually homophonic) choir and organ, the latter often
having brilliant figuration in the right hand as a kind of overarching tracery. There is also a tendency for the music to modulate to a new key and then rest awhile, as if exploring its new surroundings – a method derived I suspect from the organist’s natural improvisatory habit! This is somewhat noticeable in the three programmatic organ pieces on the disc, which nevertheless exploit the varied registration of the Norwich
instrument with some aplomb.
The mixed-voice adult Escorial Choir is almost entirely excellent, having a sharply-defined no-wobble approach yet capable of producing a warm tone as occasion demands. Only once, (in the especially demanding Quis ergo section of Sermon on the Mount) is there a hint of tiredness and strain. Overwhelmingly the performances here are very agreeable on the ear, and I have no doubt that appreciators of choral music will want this recording.