5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
For use at funeral wakes and millenial openings,
This review is from: Karl Jenkins - Requiem (Audio CD)
This disc was a birthday present from a friend. I'll leave aside the issue of what kind of friend purchases a requiem for a birthday present, but I think it's important to say that I had not consciously listened to any of Karl Jenkins's music before I was given this CD. I understand that there is a kind of snobbery concerning the popular Jenkins - the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music briskly moves non-stop from the seventeenth-century cavalier composer John Jenkins to US conductor Newell Jenkins - so there may be something in this, but listening to this CD made it clear that Karl Jenkins certainly has talent. Perhaps it is the self-promotional aspect of his activities that rubs people up the wrong way. For instance, on the informative sleeve-notes I learned that Mr Jenkins has 28 letters after his name and that I could purchase the score of this music.
His Requiem lasts 54 minutes and is impossible not to like. It is technically accomplished, eclectic in form (he has incorporated five Japanese haiku poems), but quite easy on the ear. Some might consider it shallow, and I could not vigorously argue against that judgement.
In place it often has the feel of Fauré's Requiem. This is certainly true in the Introit, which has a light touch, but where the choir unfortunately tends to drown the orchestra. There is an effective use of a five-note theme that periodically re-appears on horn. The Dies Irae is thunderously rhythmic, reminding me of "Mask" by Vangelis. The Rex Tremendae is also impressive, but it was at this point that I noted the lack of polyphony: themes are never developed, riffs are merely repeated. This contributes to the lack of depth referred to earlier. (No wonder he's won awards for advertising jingles and tunes.)
Moving onto the Confutatis, I thought I had tuned into an edition of "Sing Something Simple". The pleasant Lacrimosa again reminds me of Fauré, as does the later Lux Aeterna and the final In Paradisum. The Pie Jesu is one of the best I've ever heard. Repeated three times, it is beautiful and perfectly arranged.
The haiku poems fit surprisingly well into the structure, providing welcome respite into a different calmer world. They appear to be written and performed on a deeper level with more counterpoint in the arrangements and with a subtle shimmering orchestration. That called `Having Seen The Moon' is imaginatively and skilfully combined with the Benedictus, as is `Farewell' with the Agnus Dei.
The second piece on this CD is a sixteen-minute song-cycle called "In These Stones Horizons Sing", commissioned for the opening of the Welsh Millennium Centre. In the round, the cycle almost has the feel of a musical, especially the second part of the first of the four songs. The songs themselves tend to be monothematic and lacking in depth but are impressive nonetheless. There is effective use of sustained chords, but the repetitive singing of the title of the song-cycle tends to grate after awhile, making the theme banal. I would have played the CD again to count exactly how many times the words are sung, but I could not bear to do it. It is welcome to hear the words precisely sung though, and Bryn Terfel is in fine voice. It is good to see also that the soprano, harpist, and saxophonist are credited.
After listening four times to this CD, will I buy more Jenkins? Perhaps not: on the strength of this CD, I found that the music does not sustain interest after many plays. It is an interesting CD, though, and I will keep it in the collection for use at future wakes and millennial openings.