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Cyril Bradley Rootham (1875–1938)
Director of Music and organist at St John’s College, Cambridge, from 1901 until his death, Cyril Rootham was a composer who found success in his lifetime, and who now merits reappraisal as part of the ongoing twenty-first century review of our twentieth-century English heritage.
An important stage in this process would be the performance and premiere recording of what is undoubtedly Rootham’s most significant achievement, the Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity of 1928. In the high rhetoric and majestic periods of Milton’s verse he found a perfect vehicle to convey his command not only of the choral–orchestral medium on the largest scale, but also of the delicacy and atmosphere for which he was equally gifted. The range of its ambition is consistent with major scores of the period by other English romantics such as Bantock, Bax, Delius and Holbrooke, and his treatment of ‘It was the winter wild’ invites detailed comparison with others by J. B. McEwen in his Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, and in Hodie by Vaughan Williams – one of the many names championed by Rootham in his role as conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society.