Five Motets; Four Carols; Missa á 3; Lauda Sion; The Beatitudes;
Five Madrigals; Two Madrigals; Mass in Honour of St Teresa of Avila.
Voces Sacrae/Judy Martin.
ASV CD DCA 1093.
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; Missa in honorem Sancti
Dominici; Prelude and Fugue for Organ; Tenebrae Motets op72; Meditation for
Organ; Missa Cantuariensis.
Robert Houssart (organ)
Choir of St John's College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson.
This review should be read in conjunction with
The choral output of Edmund Rubbra was grossly under-represented on disc
until the welcome arrival of these two recent releases. They create a powerful
case for regarding Rubbra's compositions for choir as amongst his strongest
and most personal utterances. These artless but passionate works, which come
from the heart, may win over those who find his symphonies too phlegmatic
Of the two discs, the ASV covers the widest range, both stylistically and
chronologically. Starting with Rubbra's early but still characteristic Five
Motets from 1934 and ending with his movingly autumnal last major choral
work, the St Teresa Mass, this highly desirable issue includes some secular
writing in the form of two attractive sets of madrigals. The diversity of
mood and texture celebrated on the CD is typified by the placing of Lauda
Sion, Rubbra's most massive a cappella work scored for soloists and double
choir next to The Beatitudes, a finely jewelled miniature for just three
voices. The St Teresa Mass of 1981 sums up a lifetime's composing. Its economy
of means creates the maximum effect, a sure sign of a master craftsman.
The Naxos CD concentrates on Rubbra's sacred music and it is here that the
composer is at his most compelling. The powerful Magnificat and the glorious
Masses are highlights on a most enjoyable disc, rounding out our knowledge
of Rubbra and going a long way towards refuting accusations of thick textures
in his writing which stem from his orchestral music. The two brief organ
works make excellent bonuses, especially Bernard Rose's charming transcription
of Rubbra's Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Cyril Scott, originally composed
for piano on the occasion of the latter's 70th birthday. The recording is
up to Naxos' usual high standards. The ridiculously low cost of under five
pounds for an issue of this quality should make it an essential purchase.
The ASV release has the advantage of including the wonderfully luminous St
Teresa Mass, yet the Naxos disc has the most consistently fine musicianship
on display. If put in the invidious position of trying to choose between
these two CDs of marvellously eloquent and committed choral performances,
there is nothing for it but to purchase both: they will delight and refresh
staunch Rubbra fans and enrich those yet to be converted.