Karl Jenkins: Palladio


Sir Karl William Pamp Jenkins (CBE), was born on 17th February, 1944, in Penclawdd, Wales. He first received music training from his father, who was a choirmaster and chapel organist. Jenkins began to learn the oboe, and subsequently played in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. Further to this, he went and studied music at Cardiff University, and then at the Royal Academy of Music.

Regarded as the ‘most performed living composer in the world’, Jenkins’ work can be heard in films, TV series and concert halls. In 2005, Jenkins composed the score for the feature film, River Queen, which subsequently won the Golden Goblet Award for ‘Best Score’. Jenkins is also well-known for his Adiemus project, which combined Western classical styles with ethnic vocal sounds and percussion, with a new, invented language. Jenkins is also celebrated for his royal commissions such as his harp concerto Over the Stone, which was for HRH The Prince of Wales’ harpist. He has also worked with euphonium virtuoso, David Childs, violinist Marat Bisengaliev and Welsh baritone, Bryn Terfel.

Jenkins has a large catalogue of recorded music, including:


This Land of Ours

Stabat Mater


Apart from the score itself, the name Palladio has caused much discussion as to its origins. Put simply, it refers to Venice-born architect, Andrea Palladio. The form is a concerto grosso for string orchestra, with Jenkins saying this about the work:

“Palladio was inspired by the sixteenth-century Italian architect, Andrea Palladio, whose work embodies the Renaissance celebration of harmony and order. Two of Palladio’s hallmarks are mathematical harmony and architectural elements borrowed from classical antiquity, a philosophy which I feel reflects my own approach to composition.

The first movement I adapted and used for the ‘Shadows’ A Diamond is Forever television commercial for a worldwide campaign. The middle movement I have since rearranged for two female voices and string orchestra, as heard in Cantus Insolitus from my woks Songs of Sanctuary.”


The Music

Palladio, composed in 1995, is in three movements:

  1. Allegretto
  2. Largo
  3. Vivace


Movement I

The first movement utilises unity, with the main theme being played in unison by the whole string orchestra. This small kernel of melodic material and movement is then taken and developed throughout all three movements, but most obviously in the first. The way Jenkins has composed this is resonant to composers such as Antonio Vivaldi, with the first movement definitely taking some inspiration from his famous set of concerti: The Four Seasons. 

The celebration of this baroque sound is heard throughout all three movements. There is a lot of light and shade throughout, with communication between instruments playing a key part here. Starting together, solo parts begin to emerge and alternate between solo and tutti markings, creating drama and suspense. Jenkins also utilises dynamics to build tension, adding to this idea of dramatic music.


Movement II

The second movement, marked largo, begins with a pulsating figure, which moves  chromatically. Again, the ensemble are playing together, until the solo violin emerges with the main melodic figure. The accompaniment offered by the lower parts does not waver from the opening pulsating rhythms. Unlike the First Movement, the second is very slow and solemn, creating a very different atmosphere. The solo violin sings above the accompaniment, highlighting some really heart-wrenching melodies. Again, Jenkins’ choice of dynamics really helps the music along, with the accompaniment building with the intensity of the soloist, and then quickly dying away to create the vision of nothingness, perhaps.


Movement III

The final movement is quick, and emphasises the importance of timbre at the beginning, with there being a mix of pizzicato and arco parts. The jaunty and brash melodic idea is repeated, steadily going through different harmonies for over two minutes. Soon, this idea is developed into a less-harsh style of playing, and one that is very resonant of the first movement. The ensemble is the soloist for this movement, and everything is played in unison, creating a powerful wall of sound. As aforementioned, with this score being inspired by Andrea Palladio, the harmony and structures are rigid and very mathematical, something that is less-heard of in the 21st Century.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons


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