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Many of Karl Jenkins’s compositions are fairly straightforward in title: Requiem is certainly a conservative name for a piece, and A Mass for Peace is a descriptive subtitle for his famous work The Armed Man.
But Palladio? What does that one-word title allude to in describing this three-movement work for string orchestra?
Jenkins’s inspiration was Andrea Palladio, a sixteenth-century Italian architect commissioned by the wealthy families of his day to build beautiful villas, as well as a substantial number of churches. The existence of aesthetic beauty within a very defined architectural framework surely inspired Jenkins: indeed, in the opening movement of Palladio, the rigid, repetitive string lines exist as the building blocks for an ever developing sense of drama, driven home by the staccato cellos.
Palladio harks back to Italian Baroque composers such as Albinoni, who, like Jenkins, could happily let a multiple-movement work last no more than a quarter of an hour. It’s an interesting work in comparison with the rest of Jenkins’s most popular pieces in that it’s inherently conventional, conservative and unchallenging. Whereas his other big hits mould different musical styles, Palladio stays well within an eighteenth-century comfort zone throughout.
Smith Quartet; London Philharmonic Strings; Karl Jenkins (conductor). Sony: SK 62276.