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Kiri Sings Karl--Songs Of Mystery & Enchantment CD Cover
Image © EMI Classics 2006

More Karl Jenkins:
Tlep (2006)
Adiemus Website


(24 December 2006) Alongside his globally successful Adiemus albums, The Armed Man Mass For Peace, Requiem and the Kazakh-influenced Tlep (review), the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins has also shown his great abilities in composing wonderful music for world-renowned soloists such as Lesley Garrett, Bryn Terfel and Simon Keenlyside. The latest collaboration has been made with the New-Zealand soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, entitled Kiri Sings Karl--Songs of Mystery & Enchantment (EMI Classics (UK) 094635 32572, 2006), and this album indeed manages to continue the series of great collaborations in great style.

The initial kick-off for the project came, according to Karl himself, from the President of EMI Classics UK, Richard Lyttelton. And, what an interesting and fruitful idea it is indeed! Jenkins brings his own musical trademarks to the project: the invented nonsensical language of Adiemus fame, the rich usage of Pamela Thorby's records, a range of percussion instruments, and wonderful tribal choruses provided by the nine-strong Finnish Adiemus Singers team. Kiri introduces equally succesfully a cornucopia of material by Latin American composers such as Carlos Guastavino and Alberto Ginastera as well as the Spanish one, Ariel Ramirez.

With so many diverse influences, some might think that this kind of a marriage would be doomed to failure. But, as with Karl's previous albums that have contained "mix-and-match" ingredients from across the world, everything here works very well indeed. Jenkins often experiments with new material and he has done so on this album as well. For example who would have believed that Kiri's voice could have been multi-tracked up to nine times? Karl has done this previously with Miriam Stockley in his Adiemus series. This is a unique step to make for opera singers and all other big classics of the classics, but in this case, the brave steps has proven very successful.

On the other hand, this braveness doesn't go too far, so the great melodies and lush rhythms of all the pieces are finely woven together and decorated with Kiri's splendid voice. It is very hard to imagine that Kiri is the same age as Karl, 62 years, at least if judging from what one can hear. Many purists within opera and classical music in general would shake their heads when hearing that such a big star as Kiri has actually joined forces with a composer who does something else than classical standards we already know. But, the mixture of genres on this album is much more than welcome. It is a sign of great flexibility, both in terms of thinking and singing, which is, sadly, lacking from some within classical music business today. It is also a bridge between various musical genres, mixing pure classical music with lighter melodies.

Many listeners that might have felt classical music alien to them will find this blend can broaden their listening repertoire massively. To summarize, the album will appleal not only to purists but also those who are starting to discover classical music, since it is not as hard to digest as some of the heavy classical standards, for example, as Wagner's operas, might be. Obviously not to demote these old masterpieces, music listeners need soft bridges between various genres as Karl and Kiri have done together here.

From the point of view of the long-standing Karl Jenkins and Adiemus enthusiast, this new album is a safe purchase. Of course there are tracks such as "In Paradisum," "Allegrettango," and "Mazurka" (Akruzam) which are familiar for those who have heard the Adiemus and Karl Jenkins albums so far, but then again three out of the sixteen tracks in total is not too much repetition. As the re-hashed tracks have been re-recorded for this album, it also gives them some new dimensions as well. Not only thanks to Kiri and the London Symphony Orchestra, but also thanks to the Finnish team who have recorded their vocals in a studio in Helsinki. The usage of a new orchestra and the new studio for the Finnish team have both given the already familiar music even more colour and more quality.

Obviously the only question that remains unanswered at least for some time is, are we going to hear and see these songs being performed live in concert. At the moment Kiri, who has already left the opera world, has been touring across the world with her own materia. Now, having listened to such heart-warming, toe-tapping and melodic music that succeeds wonderfully in entertaining a long time after the listening has ceased, this material live in concert with Karl and all the wonderful musicians involved should be at least as wonderful an experience as buying this, simply stunning, album!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu, Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

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