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07 Sep 2007
Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment
Alban Berg's Wozzeck takes almost two hours to induce a sense of soul-crushing nausea and despondency. Kiri Sings Karl achieved that for your reviewer in a couple minutes, and then went on with terrifying, torturous efficiency for almost another hour.
Apparently Wales-born Karl Jenkins has made quite a success in the UK and Europe. His breathless biography in the CD booklet reports that he started in jazz, then earned numerous awards "in the field of advertising music," before turning his talent (supply one's own throat clearing) to 'classical' music (inverted commas courtesy the booklet essay).
Although the cover claims that these "songs of mystery and enchantment" are composed and arranged by Karl Jenkins, that should really be "and/or." The majority adapt melodic material from composers such as Fauré, Chopin, Beethoven, with a large number using the lighter material of Argentinian Carlos Guastivino. A smaller number are credited to Jenkins.
Everything sounds the same, at any rate. Jenkins doesn't even have the occasionally effective melodic gift of an Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Vangelis is a closer comparison - and that's no compliment to Vangelis. Synthesizers pulse and stream, percussion rattles endlessly, and a breathy chorus mumbles nonsense syllables. And above all that we have soprano Kiri Te Kanawa. Her own booklet note makes it clear that she admires Mr. Jenkins and his music. Fine. Even if she had recorded this album when her voice possessed its full bloom and beauty, she would not have to bring much to it. In her current vocal state, the tone trembles as she lightens the support to fit the pop-nature of the material. She sounds much, much older than she looks in the very attractive and glamorous photos generously supplied in the packaging.
If OperaToday readers know Mr. Jenkins' work and appreciate it, surely they will find this CD as enjoyable as any other from him. Only the most devoted of Ms. Te Kanawa's fans, however, are likely to find much pleasing here.
Sappy, derivative, occasionally tasteless (try Antema Africana): that's Kiri Sings Karl.