Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2011 by Fred Flaxman

Program 186
"Karl Jenkins"

MUSIC: excerpt from the opening of the first movement of Karl Jenkins’s Palladio, performed by the London Philharmonic Strings conducted by Karl Jenkins [Sony SK 62276, Track 1] [under the following]

Do you recognize this music? Ever heard it before? Have any idea of who the composer was?

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I’m going to devote the next hour to the music of the contemporary Welsh composer of this catchy tune: Karl Jenkins. This is the beginning of the first movement of his Palladio for Strings, but you are more likely to recognize it as the music to a long-running television commercial for diamonds.

We’ll hear the first two movements to Palladio later in this hour along with an explanation of its title. But first let me tell you about Karl Jenkins.

MUSIC: Fades out

Karl Jenkins was born in a small village in South Wales in 1944 to Welsh and Swedish parents. The Swedish side explains his mop of blond hair, so prominent on his photos.

At six he began playing piano with his father, who was a local chapel choirmaster. He started on the oboe when he was 11, becoming the principal oboist in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He studied composition at the University of Wales in Cardiff, and then did post-graduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he began playing jazz saxophone.

It was as a jazz musician that he first made his mark, winning awards in the unusual role of jazz oboist and multi-instrumentalist. He co-founded Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972. Then he joined Soft Machine, one of the progressive rock bands of the 1970s.

Fast forward to 1995. That year saw the release of Jenkins’ Adiemus: Songs of Sancturary, an extended work written for voice, percussion and the London Philharmonic Strings. This cross-over World Music/classical/New Age difficult-to-categorize piece went on to top charts in Europe and Japan. It was inspired by a piece Jenkins wrote for a Delta Airlines commercial.

You might wonder what Adiemus means. I know I did. I still do. Karl Jenkins made the word up, apparently, but doesn’t reveal on his website or in his Wikipedia listing what it means.

In any case, Adiemus: Songs of Sancturary spawned a series of four successor Adiemus albums, each one revolving around a central theme. Album number five was called Adiemus Vocalise. In contrast to Jenkins' past Adiemus compositions, several of the tracks in this album are arrangements or variations on existing classical works. Would Beethoven roll over in his grave if he heard this?


MUSIC: Jenkins/Beethoven: Allegrettango from Adiemus Vocalise, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karl Jenkins with the Adiemus Singers [EMI Classics 0 946-3-53244-2 6, Track 13]

Allegrettango from Adiemus Vocalise, by Karl Jenkins with a little help from a friend, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Adiemus Singers conducted by Karl Jenkins. The tune was taken from the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony Number Seven. That was from an EMI Classics CD.

Karl Jenkins has created a good deal of advertising music, twice winning the industry prize in that field. Perhaps his most-heard piece of music is the classical theme used by De Beers diamonds for their television advertising campaign focusing on jewellery worn by people otherwise seen only in silhouette. Jenkins later included this as the title track in a compilation called "Diamond Music," and eventually created Palladio, using it as the theme of the first movement.

Palladio was inspired by the 16th Century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, whose work embodies the Renaissance celebration of harmony and order, according to Jenkins. He writes: “Two of Palladio’s hallmarks are mathematical harmony and architectural elements borrowed from classical antiquity, a philosophy which I feel reflects my own approach to composition.”

Let’s hear the first two movements of Palladio now, as performed by the London Philharmonic Strings.


MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: Palladio, first and second movements, performed by the London Philharmonic Strings conducted by Karl Jenkins [Sony SK 62276, Tracks 1 and 2] [3:47 and 5:38]

The first and second movements of Palladio by Karl Jenkins. The composer conducted the London Philharmonic Strings.

Let’s turn next to Karl Jenkins’ 1999 composition, The Armed Man. Its subtitle is “A Mass for Peace.” This anti-war piece was commissioned, ironically, by the Royal Armories Museum for the year 2000 Millennium celebrations and to mark the museum’s move from London to Leeds. It was dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis.

The work is based on the Catholic Mass, which Jenkins combines with other sources, beginning and ending the composition with the 15th Century French folk tune, l’Homme armé. It is written for chorus, soloists and symphony orchestra. The text includes words by Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Sankichi Toge, who survived the Hiroshima bombing but died some years later of leukaemia.

The Armed Man charts the growing menace of a descent into war, interspersed with moments of reflection. It shows the horrors that war brings; and ends with the hope for peace in a new millennium.

We’re going to listen to three excerpts from this Mass: Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Sanctus. Karl Jenkins conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain on this EMI Classics CD.

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man: Benedictus performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain conducted by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics 0 95058 2, Track 2]

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man: Agnus Dei performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain conducted by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics 0 95058 2, Track 6]

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man: Sanctus performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain conducted by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics 0 95058 2, Track 9]

Three movements from The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins. The composer conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.

You are listening to my choices of the very best of the best of the music of Karl Jenkins. I’m Fred Flaxman, your guide for Compact Discoveries.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing]

It is not surprising that Karl Jenkins is known mainly for his choral music, considering that his father was a choralmaster and Karl Jenkins grew up in South Wales with its rich choral tradition. In 2005, some five years after his The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, he wrote a Requiem.

I’d like to play for you my three favorite movements from that work: Pie Jesu, Lacrimosa, and In Paradisum. Nicole Tibbeis is the soprano in the Pie Jesu and Lacrimosa, both of which feature the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is the soprano for In Paradisum, which also features Pamela Thorby on recorder, the Adiemus Singers, and the London Symphony Orchestra. These tracks are from a two-CD set issued by EMI Classics called “The Very Best of Karl Jenkins.”

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: Requiem: Pie Jesu, performed by Nicole Tibbeis, soprano, with the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra [EMI Classics 0 95058 2 7, CD 1, Track 4] [4:32]

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: Requiem: Lacrimosa, performed by Nicole Tibbeis, soprano, with the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra [EMI Classics 0 95058 2 7, CD 1, Track 13] [4:45]

MUSIC: Karl Jenkins: Requiem: In Paradisum, performed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano, with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Adiemus Singers, and Pamela Thorby on recorder [EMI Classics 0 95058 2 7, CD 1, Track 11] [5:26]

Three excerpts from the 2005 Requiem by Karl Jenkins. Nicole Tibbeis was the soprano for the Pie Jesu and Lacrimosa, both of which featured the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was the soprano for In Paradisum, which also featured Pamela Thorby on recorder, the Adiemus Singers, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

MUSIC: excerpt from the opening of the first movement of Karl Jenkins’ Palladio, performed by the London Philharmonic Strings conducted by Karl Jenkins [Sony SK 62276, Track 1] [under the following]

And that concludes this hour devoted to the music of the contemporary Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. If you missed any of this hour or would like to hear it again, go to www.compactdiscoveries.com on the internet, where you’ll find links to stream most Compact Discoveries programs on demand without charge. At the website you’ll also find scripts for every Compact Discoveries program with complete information on every selection. There are a few new features there as well, including my lists of recommended orchestral music, concert DVDs, and CDs and DVDs of classics for kids.

This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening and for supporting your local public broadcasting station. It is that kind of support which makes the broadcast of this program possible in your community. Please join me again next time for more Compact Discoveries!

MUSIC: [up and out at 57:32]

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you. [0:28]

Total Program Timing: 58:00