There is an awful lot of good music in C Major
My recent post sang the praises of the recording of English string music with Sir John Barbirolli conducting the legendary Sinfonia of London session orchestra. Rather confusingly, there is also an excellent long-standing permanent orchestra of forty professional musicians called the City of London Sinfonia. So this post switches Sinfonias but stays with English music to highlight another essential recording.
In 2007 John Rutter made an important contribution to a Norwich Cathedral seminar on 'The Challenge of Contemporary Music', from which this extract is taken:
I suppose I never really felt the need to venture into uncharted territory. I think in the end you have to speak with your own voice and there is a difference between being traditional and just copying what other people have done. I mean, we all see and hear quite a lot of second-hand music which... is just a pale imitation of what others have done. There is no mileage in that. I myself however always felt that it was possible to use traditional means in new ways. Schoenberg once said there's an awful lot of good music left in C Major, and I thought, well, perhaps I'll try to write some of it*.EMI recorded John Rutter's Requiem in 1998 with the late and much-lamented Stephen Cleobury conducting the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and the City of London Sinfonia. C Major is, literally, central to this Requiem, as the celebratory central Sanctus is in that key, as is the penultimate and moving setting of Psalm 23.
It is testimony to the emotional power of John Rutter's Requiem that it was the music of choice in America following the 9/11 tragedies - see header image. That invaluable power to offer reassurance, if not answers, chimes with another earlier post lamenting how classical music is selling itself short. As this post explained, in the current dark pandemic-dominated times classical music is foolishly failing to exploit its therapeutic powers, instead choosing to compete in the entertainment market. There is an awful lot of good and therapeutic music in major keys. As one example, Gavin Plumley added a comment to my advocacy of the health benefits of Dvořák's Symphonies describing how the G Major final movement of Dvořák's 6th Symphony "is a life-affirming burst of sunshine". It is not a coincidence that G Major is also the key of the concluding Introit and Kyrie of Rutter's affirmative Requiem.
Inevitably some find John Rutter's music unadventurous, despite its global importance to that power for musical good, amateur choirs. These naysayers should never forget that there is much good music in major keys. However, we must also avoid duality by remembering that there is an abundance of riches written in minor keys and also in music which eschews conventional key structures.
* John Rutter's substantial contribution to that seminar demands to be made more widely available. I have it in hard copy, but its length precludes conventional transcription, by me at least. Any reader who has access to dependable character recognition software that could transcribe it and is willing to help, please contact me via the comments - your communication will not be published.
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