Jenkins Quirk warner

Déjà Review: this review was first published in November 2008 and the recording is still available. Bob Briggs passed away in 2011.

Karl Jenkins (b. 1944)
Quirk – The Concertos
Sarikiz, for violin (2008) [21:16]
Quirk, for flute, keyboards and percussion (2005) [21:24]
La Folia, for marimba (2004) [10:39]
Over the Stone, for two harps (2002) [22:45]
Allegretto from Palladio for two violins (1996) [3:46]
London Symphony Orchestra, Karl Jenkins
rec. 2007/8, Angel Recording Studios, London; Acapela/Kissan Studios, Pentrych, Wales; EMI Abbey Road Studios, London
Originally released on EMI Classics
Warner Classics 5002352 [80]

In his brief note, Jenkins writes, about the final piece, “It is in a retro–baroque style.” This could be said of the first movement of the first work Sarikiz, albeit suffused in a Kazakh haze. The middle, slow, movement has a real feel of English pastoral music – Vaughan Williams and Delius – and the finale is a wild dance with a contrasting section reminiscent of Trevor Duncan’s famous March from his Little Suite (the title music for the BBC TV series Dr Finlay’s Casebook). Jenkins’s music isn’t derivative, it just suddenly throws up these allusions. It’s a most attractive piece, very colourful and  exciting.

Quirk is more urban in its sound world. Starting with some very bold writing for strings and brass, the soloists enter with more easy–going music but Jenkins doesn’t lose sight of his purpose and the forward moving orchestral music keeps returning as a ritornello, until it turns into a vamp–til–ready accompaniment. There is a cadenza for the piano, which starts as a blues, becomes a bit of Gershwin, then cool jazz, until the music of the opening returns and makes a big finish. The slow movement begins in the manner of the music Jerry Goldsmith wrote for City Hall – a New York based political thriller – and this is certainly nocturnal downtown New York music. There’s a cadenza for flute which is at odds with the surrounding music, which keeps interrupting and ultimately calms the soloist. The movement ends with the most beautiful, relaxed sounds. The finale, Chasing the goose, is an hilariously lop–sided square dance which is decidedly un–square.

La Folia is a tune published in the middle of the 17th century, but which is probably much older, and which, like Paganini’s 24th Caprice, has held a fascination for composers ever since. Incidentally, in his note Jenkins mistakenly attributes the tune to Corelli, as did Rachmaninov, who wrote a set of variations on the tune, for piano (1931). More recently, Vangelis used the tune in his music for the film 1492 Conquest of Paradise (1992). Jenkins’s set of variations features the marimba, these days an occasional Concerto soloist, and the music is gentle and very pleasing.

Over the Stone was commissioned by the Prince of Wales for Catrin Finch, who was Harpist to the Prince of Wales from 2000 to 2004. On this recording Finch, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, plays both harp parts. It’s the largest work on the disk and the most interesting, having a well considered layout for both harps and orchestra and the six movements have much variety and there’s a good deal of attractive music to be found here – I defy you not to enjoy the Vamp Latino finale.

Then we’re back to the retro–baroque of Palladio. It’s a light end to an interesting disk of recent Concertos written in an accessible style by a composer whose background includes playing reeds and keyboards in the progressive rock band Soft Machine, and Ian Carr’s Nucleus. Although there’s reminders of the Jenkins of Adiemus, his cross–over breakthrough disk, there’s more personality to these pieces, more of the man himself, so to speak.

There’s nothing deep, or profound here, just well crafted, very enjoyable music.

Bob Briggs

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music
Arkiv Music

Marat Bisengaliev (violin), Gareth Davies (flute), John Alley (keyboards), Neil Percy (percussion and marimba), Catrin Finch (harp), Carmine Lauri and David Alberman (violins)