Leeds Cathedral, Saturday 26th November 2022:
John Rutter’s Requiem (1985) and Gabriel Fauré’s, composed almost a century earlier, could be said to form a concert pairing made in heaven.
Each work lasts around thirty-five minutes and is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra. Fauré and Rutter focus on the true meaning of the word ‘requiem’ or ‘rest’. Both works convey serene resignation and a sense of release. The music is predominantly soothing and reassuring. Neither composer sets the sometimes terrifying depiction – Verdi’s for example – of the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath).
Rutter made his work accessible to smaller choral societies lacking the finance or venue for a full orchestra. He arranged an alternative off-the-peg version with chamber ensemble accompaniment. Fauré’s Requiem, on the other hand, exists in several liturgical and concert arrangements, devised by the composer himself and later scholars. These include John Rutter who published his own edition of the Fauré Requiem less than two years before composing his own.
Last Saturday’s performances of these two beautiful works were given by eighty members of the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus. They were accompanied on the organ of Leeds Cathedral, played by Thomas Leech, and a chamber ensemble comprising oboe, flute, violin, cello, glockenspiel, harp and timpani.
This downsized orchestration proved admirably suited to the space. Instrumental and vocal textures were wonderfully bathed in Leeds Cathedral’s resonant acoustic. David Hill, music director of Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, achieved consummate balance. The bloom of each instrument and the eighty choristers all came across as individual voices; a quality generally lacking in larger scale performances. Soprano Rachel Speirs and baritone David Cane were the expressive soloists.
Perhaps above all, the sincerity of these performers shone through their interpretations of two universally popular requiems. Both composers reached the heart of the listener with the humanity of their message and the richness of their choral writing.
Ilkley Gazette, Wharfdale Observer