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CD Feature/ Katherine Jenkins: "Living a Dream"

img  Tobias

There are two opposing theories in the world of music. The first regards change as an essential parameter of quality and considers repetition an evil. Each artist, the ambassadors of this side of the argument insist, must strive to push his style to the limit, to reinvent himself for the sake of the arts. The second one claims that you should never change a winning team. What has proven its worth in the past must surely be right in the future as well. With her third album, at least for the time being, Katherine Jenkins has clearly outed herself as belonging to the latter camp.

On the face of things, that need not be a bad thing. “Living a Dream” continues down the road of her previous two releases, which turned her into an international star and an icon in her native Wales. Jenkins has managed to uncover the potential of classical music in the mass media if polished, pureed with adjacent genres and presented in an unpretentious way – “Premiere” especially was a refreshing disc, which served a well-balanced menu of Welsh traditionals, opera favourites and some specially written tunes. Only just over a year later, Jenkins is down to her third album without making all too many adjustments. “Living a Dream” contains cover versions of chart hits (“I will always love you”), musical adaptations (Webbers’s “Music of the Night”), occasional stabs into folk territory and excerpts from the classical standard repertoire, such as a delicate rendition of “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” by Saint-Saens. So much has stayed the same and yet, these two discs feel very different indeed. How come?

Partly, this sensation can be attributed to the fact that “Living a Dream” is Katherine Jenkins’ most serious attempt at a “real” classical album. In terms of instrumentation at least, she is accompanied by the Prague Symphonia on each track and even the more recent cuts sound lush and drenched in a warm orchestral light. Electronics stay in the background, as the string section takes command, lending an organic and yet contemporary note to the record. And yet, it has turned out a pop album pur sang: Catchiness as a main criterium, the colourful selection of repertoire, the emphasis on melody and harmony instead of text and development and the inclusion of predictable favourites all characterises the CD as a work which aims to please. Which actually works fine when Jenkins approaches shining hymns like “I vow to thee my country” (which is still spinning in my head right now) or pure and simple modern arias like Enio Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso”. But it becomes problematic in combination with those compositions, which require more nuances.

“Nessun Dorma”, in itself a bold attempt of translating a highlight of the tenor-register to her own pitch of Mezzo Soporano, comes across as slightly detached, because its words are regarded as mere syllabels to carry the melody. This also holds true in the case of “Music of the Night”, which talks about a myterious splendor, which just isn’t there in Katherine Jenkins’ performance. In these instances, she sounds as if she were singing these pieces spontaneously and completely in the moment, yet without thought of their deeper meaning. That is, of course, whence they draw their appeal and why the album as a whole has such a gentle flow to it. But it is also why it fails to present any additional layers – and why it fails to suprise even once.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. Katherine Jenkins has delivered another varied cross-over effort and you can still hear her having fun with it. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see what she is capable of when taking her talents one step further, in whatever direction she might like to venture. This is not even about making a choice between sticking to your formula or changing for the sake of changing. Behind the beautiful facade lies the danger of arbitrariness - the real menace facing artists from both  camps.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Katherine Jenkins
Homepage: Universal Classics

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