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Karl JENKINS (b. 1944)
Karl Jenkins and Adiemus - The Essential Collection

Adiemus (1999 Version) (Adiemus 1) (Delta Airlines ad) [3.56]
Pie Jesu (Requiem) [4.36]
Hymn Before Action (Armed Man) [2.38]
Cantus - Song of Tears (Adiemus 2 - journey edit) [3.55]
Palladio (1st Movement) from Diamond Music (De Beers ad) [3.47]
Lacrimosa (Requiem) [4.51]
Cantilena (The Journey (C&G Ad)) [3.22]
In Paradisum (Requiem) [5.37]
In These Stones Horizons Sing (Part 1 - The Exile Song) [2.34]
Agnus Dei (Armed Man) [4.41]
Cantus - Song of the Plains (Adiemus 2 - journey edit) [3.56]
Dies Irae (Requiem) [4.41]
Allegrettango (Adiemus 5) [6.01]
Benedictus (Armed Man) [7.36]
Beyond the Century (The Journey) [4.52]
Sanctus (Armed Man) [7.00]
Various artists recorded CTS Studios 1996-2005. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 3 53244 2 [72:33]

Karl Jenkins website

Karl Jenkins was born in Penclawdd, Gower, Wales. He came from a musical family and as a teenager played oboe in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He read music at the University of Wales, Cardiff then went on to the Royal Academy of Music. After years of making a living in jazz, playing at Ronnie Scott's club and winning first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival he was with the pop group Soft Machine playing venues such as the 'Proms', Carnegie Hall and the Newport Rhode Island Jazz Festival. He became a successful commercial composer much sought after in the advertising world. He also landed Welsh BAFTAs for his music for the TV series The Celts and Testament. In 2002 his double harp concerto 'Over The Stone' was premiered by the then Royal Harpist, Catrin Finch and Elinor Bennett accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; now that I would like to hear. He has written anthems for UNESCO and for the opening of the Welsh Assembly.

Adiemus I, Song of Tears, Song of the Plains and Cantilena (Cheltenham and Gloucester commercial) represent a rapprochement between Fanshawe style African drumming and clapping and the Orinoco Flow celticism of Enya. The breathlessly close-up pop balance is strong in all these Adiemus tracks. There’s a shade or ten of Bizet’s Carmen in Allegrettango - in fact of the steely Bizet-Shchedrin ballet music.

Jenkins struggles manfully to steer clear of the mesmerising fascination of Rutter’s Pie Jesu. Oddly enough Rutter is another composer serious enthusiasts are told to avoid. In Rutter’s case this is snobbism. I am not sure Jenkins’ Pie Jesu is up to Rutter standards but it has a soupily sweet consistency and some nicely contrived velveteen choral contributions. The Hymn Before Action from The Armed Man has stiffer sinews and a theme with cinematic breadth and resonance. The Benedictus is the ultimate in soothing and sweetly sorrowful music, this time with a calming English pastoral accent.

Palladio is the diamond music from the de Beers TV commercial. It’s a fine and stylish Vivaldian piece with a hint of the hunt and of breathless excitement. The Lacrimosa from the Requiem sets mandolin against an ermine-toned female choir. The In Paradisum is also from the Requiem and makes use of Jenkins’ trademark chugging ostinato but mixes it cleverly with metallic harp silver-points. The harp is also a plangent warm presence in The Exile Song here sung by a tremulously severe Bryn Terfel. The Dies Irae (Requiem) has a gripping intimidating balefulness - just right - and perhaps recalling some of the Mordor battle music by David Shire and the darker rockbeat-impelled music in Phantom of the Opera. The Agnus Dei from The Armed Man rolls suavely forward in warmth and consolation. It has about it a slight touch of the Mike Sammes Singers - just a little too much saccharine. The changes are nicely rung with a taut and discreet brass fanfare. Similar patterning is used in the Sanctus. Who’s to criticise? The Armed Man has done staggeringly well and among living composers nothing has equalled its air time on the UK’s Classic FM.

This album should do well and is first choice for the Jenkins-curious. It amounts to a Jenkins’ greatest hits compilation. The insert is virtually useless. It tells us nothing about Jenkins and the print is so small and the colour choices so wrongheaded that the whole thing is difficult to read. Another triumph of design over basic competence.

Strange how dismissive the serious classical world can be of music like this when Guild’s agreeably endless mood music series tracks similarly commercial repertoire. The passage of years clearly rehabilitates music that bestrides the popular-classical divide. This however is not music that strongly appeals to me. It plumbs few depths but it is catchy, moving and strangely memorable and in the right mood lightens the mood, cools the heated or slows the fevered pulse.

Rob Barnett



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