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Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1988)
Missa Cantuariensis op. 59 (1946) [21:52]
Dormi Jesu op. 3 (1924) [1:24]
That Virgin Child Most Meek op. 114 no. 2 (1967) [3:21]
Missa in honorem Sancti Dominici op. 66 (1948) [20:09]
St Margaret's Westminster Singers/Richard Hickox
Ian Watson (organ) (op. 59)
rec. 1975, London, AAD
First released on RCA LP LRL 15119 in 1976
CHANDOS CHAN10423 [47:25]



This surely represents a labour of reverence and of love. What else could have prompted Chandos to resurrect on CD an LP issued thirty years ago? The tapes were inevitably analogue and the now frugal timing is consistent with 1970s LP format.
 
This is music of undemonstrative seriousness diffusing light but without the ecstatic radiance of Howells. The choir is mixed in each of the four works. These are essentially the two 1940s masses framing two short carols. The music is inward. There's nothing at all garish; no pomp and little feeling of ceremony. On the technical side, only for an instant or two do we hear a suggestion of analogue distortion in the wildness and antiphonally bounced bell-evocations of the Gloria in Excelsis from Miss Cantuariensis. Chandos displaying their accustomed integrity warn us that this recording was taken from LP and that there may be distortion. In fact the warning is hardly needed.
 
The singing of the St Margaret’s Singers is smooth, spiritual and intellectually engaged. The two brief carols are atmospherically done. Of the two masses the Missa in Honorem Sancti Dominici (a cappella) is the most constantly rewarding, right from its swaying Kyrie to its gothic-dark Agnus Dei. In this work one cannot help but wonder if Rubbra had been influenced by that least religious but most mystical of composers, Arnold Bax in his masterpiece, the motet Mater Ora Filium.  Beside the op. 66 work the op. 59 seems almost ‘penny plain’ despite the presence of the organ. 
 
The Latin words are reproduced in full and translated into English, French and German.
 
The background notes are fulsome and are contributed by the composer and by  Timothy Storey and Richard Hickox.
 
Design details are well up to Chandos's gold standard. Their choices are pretty much unerring.
 
Well worth adding to the Rubbra treasury already issued by Chandos: all ten symphonies (also conducted by Hickox) CHAN 9944(5) (see reviews of individual symphonies); Sinfonia Concertante, Morning Watch, A Tribute, Ode to the Queen CHAN 9966 and Inscape, Latin  Lyrics, Song of the Soul, Veni creator Spiritus CHAN 9847.
 
Rob Barnett
 



 


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