K. JENKINS Stabat mater • Karl Jenkins, cond; Jurgita Adamonyte (mez); Belinda Sykes (voc, mey); Jody K. Jenkins (perc); EMO Ens; Royal Liverpool P & Ch • EMI 00283 (62:00)
I could feel the knot in my stomach tightening as I Googled for biographical background on Welsh-born Karl Jenkins (b. 1944). Was his Stabat mater another one of those 21st-century avant-garde massed choral-orchestral ratatouilles stewed in pseudo religiosity and seasoned withRead more spasmodic gasping, gurgling, grindings, and gratings posing as music—the kind I love to hate? But wait; there was hope. Jenkins, after all, had solid conservatory grounding behind him, including study at University College in Cardiff and at the Royal Academy of Music. Most of his career has been devoted to serious jazz and jazz-rock music. His group, Nucleus, won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970, and has performed at the Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival. Readers may even have heard a snippet of Jenkins’s music written for a well-known De Beers Diamond Merchants television commercial.
It was time to sit down and actually listen to the CD. To my surprise and extreme pleasure, what greeted my ears was one of the most beautiful “modern” works of its type I’ve heard. I’ve placed the word “modern” in quotes because Jenkins’s score is not only accessible, a buzz word for easy on the ears and easily grasped, but it is cast in a romantically embracing euphony and warmth that are much in the tradition of similar works by John Rutter and John Tavener, both of whom are exact contemporaries of Jenkins. I was also reminded to an extent of the modally tinged choral works of Vaughan Williams
The only nod to modernistic-cum-archaic techniques in this Stabat mater is the occasional and subtle introduction of exotic percussion effects that seem intended to establish the atmospherics of both the original 13th-century poem of lament attributed to Jacopone de Todi and the ancient cultures of the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent. The latter reference is explained by the fact that Jenkins’s score interleaves the set text with various poetic passages at a number of points along the way. Jenkins himself tells us in the booklet note that “These comprise a choral arrangement of the Ave verum that I originally composed for Bryn Terfel, ‘And the Mother did weep,’ with just this one line of mine sung in English, Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic (the common language of the period) and Greek; Lament with words by Carol Barratt written especially for this work; Incantation with its semi-improvised nature sung, in part, in early Arabic; then two settings of ancient text, revised into the original Stabat mater rhyming scheme by the poet Grahame Davies, which is sung in both English and Aramaic.” Contributing to the authentic Middle Eastern flavor of these insertions are percussion instruments such as the darabuca, def, and riq, along with an early double-reed wind instrument called a mey. Additionally, use of scales or modes, such as Hijaz and Bayati, is employed alongside traditional Western harmony.
Some may find that Jenkins’s Stabat mater flirts uncomfortably with the kind of commercial pap aimed at appealing to that broad segment of society largely unschooled in classical music. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t acknowledge that there is some element of pop culture in the piece. But it is so beautifully written, so appealing, so deeply moving, so comforting, and so superbly performed, my elitist guards are defenseless against it. This is a most gratifying discovery for me; and if you have found yourself generally in tune with my musical preferences in the past, I believe you will find this music a most rewarding and uplifting experience.
Stabat Materby Karl Jenkins Performer:
Jurgita Adamonyte (Mezzo Soprano),
Jody K. Jenkins (Percussion),
Belinda Sykes (Voice)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir,
EMO Ensemble (classical)
Period: 20th Century Length: 60 Minutes 21 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Beautiful!!April 16, 2012By Royce Darby (San Diego, CA)See All My Reviews"Karl Jenkins is a very fine composer! His music is very interesting and exciting. He uses many fine melodies in many ways. His work,"The Armed Man" is also a very fine work and very meaningful for today's society. My choral group, along with many others have performed his works. I look forward to many more excellent works by this very artful composer."Report Abuse