One of the most extraordinarily popular and successful British composers of his generation, John Rutter’s choral works, anthems, hymns and carols are beloved the world over for their distinctive mix of French choral, English pastoral and American popular influences.
Rutter has enjoyed a long career at the pinnacle of the English choral world, from his appearance as a chorister in the first (1963) recording of Britten’s War Requiem (conducted by the composer himself), through his time at Cambridge and his numerous prestigious appointments and accomplishments up to the present day.
Now his Piano Collection: A Flower Remembered, brings together 8 of his best-loved choral pieces in new transcriptions for solo piano.
Appearing both as a 21-minute recording by Wayne Marshall (available on the usual streaming platforms and to purchase in MP3 format here), and as a sheet music publication from Rutter’s publishers OUP, the arrival of The John Rutter Piano Album is something of an event to truly cherish!
Read on for more…
A Flower Remembered
In this short clip, John Rutter introduces us to this wonderful album:
The eight pieces which he has transcribed for the collection are:
- A Clare Benediction
- A flower remembered
- A Gaelic blessing
- All things bright and beautiful
- Be thou my vision
- For the beauty of the earth
- Lord, make me an instrument of thy pieace
- The Lord bless you and keep you
For me, the transcriptions strike a perfect balance between idiomatic piano writing and faithfully reproducing the essence of the original full-scale compositions, bathed as they so often are in lush harmonic beauty and chromaticism.
To be honest, I wasn’t initially sure whether these pieces would be “my kind of thing”; though I found the Decca recordings a pleasant listen, it was only really when I sat down with the score that the pieces fully came to life. And I now very much love them!
Difficulty wise, the pieces have a full texture that sometimes encompasses large chords, octave playing and contrapuntal inner voices, and requires the piano technique and deft pedalling of an early advanced player (perhaps around UK Grade 7, albeit with a more easy-going aesthetic).
The OUP Score
The score appears in a tastefully subdued but suitably lovely cover in the OUP house style, with gloss card:
The 28 pages (printed on off-white paper) include the title, copyright and contents pages followed by the scores of the eight pieces.
The notation is a good size and clearly reproduced. No fingering suggestions are offered, but pedalling marks are indicated throughout. The composer’s expression marks are all faithfully present, but these pieces are so absorbing that I suspect many a player will already be engrossed, basking in their own expressive engagement with such beautiful music.
As a bonus the score also includes the words to the choral originals. This will not only be welcomed by those who wish to sing along, but useful for comparing the transcriptions to the compositions they are based on. Indeed, the collection would be a wise purchase for any who wish to use it for the study of musical analysis, harmony, composition and arranging.
The John Rutter Piano Album is music that deeply enriches both player and listener, and I anticipate returning to the score to play these pieces again and again, especially in those “down moments” when I have time to indulge in playing purely for relaxation and enjoyment.
Having produced such sumptuous and elevating transcriptions of eight non-seasonal songs, is it too much to hope that Rutter will return soon with a collection of his most beloved seasonal favourites?
If you have any interest in this music, The John Rutter Piano Album is not a purchase you are likely to regret!