Polyphony / Stephen Layton

Karl Jenkins: Miserere - Songs of Mercy and Redemption

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Since the release of his Adiemus Project albums and his mass The Armed Man in the 1990s, Karl Jenkins has been one of Britain's most popular composers. He is disliked by major newspaper critics, but that is of little consequence to the millions who buy his albums and, perhaps more important, to the many choirs that sing his music for the joy of it. Many of Jenkins' releases fall ingeniously in between the pop and classical forms of album presentation: Miserere might be regarded either as a collection of individual pieces or as a single work. It addresses, in a general way, the theme of ongoing violence in the Middle East, and several pieces use instruments and musical techniques from that region. Sample "Praise, Joy & Gladness," which uses some of these sounds in an entirely novel fusion with American praise and worship music. Whatever you may think of Jenkins, he can hardly be charged with being derivative. Mostly sung by the choir Polyphony under Stephen Layton, with a variety of vocal and instrumental soloists including cellist Abel Selaocoe, these pieces are in Latin, English, and in a few places biblical Aramaic and Hebrew; are in Western and Middle Eastern styles; are quite personal or fall into the centuries-long tradition of settings of the Miserere text (here, Jenkins approaches the concept of The Armed Man). There are some who will never accept the heart-on-the-sleeve aspect of some of Jenkins' music, but that's not all there is to him, and this release shows him to be still going strong in his mid-70s. Recommended.

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