Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man (‘Mass for Peace’)

The Welsh composer Karl Jenkins – almost as famous for his remarkable moustache as for his music – is, quite simply, a phenomenon in contemporary music.

And this, his Mass for Peace, is the primary explanation of his enduring popularity. It was, we’re rather proud to say, given its premiere at a Classic FM live concert in the autumn of 2000 at London’s Royal Albert hall. A year later, the work entered the Classic FM Hall of Fame – and, over the next few years, it climbed rapidly into the Top Ten, where it’s remained as the nation’s favourite piece of contemporary music.

Many sections of the work are worthy of close examination – not least the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus – but it’s the haunting Benedictus that captivates listeners to the greatest extent, leaving them begging for more. Jenkins’s writing for soulful cello is sublime (if you ever needed proof that the instrument is the closest in sound to the human voice, you’ll find it here) and the heavenly choral accompaniment truly transports you to another place.

Never one to define himself by one set of beliefs, Jenkins uses all sorts of inspirations for the text of The Armed Man, including the Muslim call to prayer, the sixteenth-century 'L’Homme armé' Mass tradition, and ancient religious texts.

Recommended Recording

Guy Johnston (cello); National Youth Choir of Great Britain; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Karl Jenkins (conductor). EMI Classics: 50999 21729621.