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CD Feature/ Katherine Jenkins: "Serenade"

img  Tobias

For all of their adherence to a clearly defined success formula, each of Katherine Jenkin's albums had a distinct mood of its own. „Premiere“ was dark and innocent, „Second Nature“ extrovert and pompous and „Living a Dream“ poppy and orchestral. With her fourth album, the Welsh Mezzo stays true to the direction set by the previous two efforts, while simultaneously presenting her warmest and most sensous work to date.

For those who saw the rich symphonic textures of „Living a Dream“ as harbingers of a more traditional classical approach, this record must therefore surely be regarded as a setback. On „Serenade“, Katherine Jenkins covers Bryan Adams (who joined the session with his acoustic guitar and delivered booklet photography while at it), adds a straight electronic drum beat to Pachelbel's „Canon“ and replaces the string section with synthesizers more often than ever since her debut. The Classical core repertoire, as before, is merely one of several factors in her oeuvre. And if it does come up, it lacks the grandezza and drama often associated with the opera.

Some of that can be attributed to her choice of interpretations, which hardly ever allow for risk. Turning Bach's „Ave Maria“ and the aforementioned „Canon“ into razor-sharp emotional outcries would be like singing „Everything I do (I do it for you)“ as if it were a Death Metal song. In the finale of „Chanson Boheme“ there is a sudden burst of energy and electricity, but it stems from the aggressive dynamics of the Philharmonic Orchestra and not from Katherine Jenkins herself.

On the other hand, it is vital to note that this is actually a concept of sorts. Much against the general image of a superstar and the notion of diva-ism, Katherine Jenkins is not fighting against the other musicians in a battle for supremacy, but blending herself and her voice seemlessly into the arrangements. „Serenade“, and this is the most important message of all, is not a cool demonstration of her vocal abilities. It is a record in which the overall performance has been awarded top priority.

Bedded in between the gulfing waves of sound sent her way, Katherine Jenkins can do what she does best: Focussing all attention on melody and creating a romantic dream of opera. „Serenade“ is not a collection of arias, not even a clever melange of pop tunes, film scores, musicals and ballads. Instead, it constitutes an oasis of harmony far away from worry and stress. Where you draw the line between beautiful and bland will depend whether or not you can enjoy the ride. But there can be no doubt that her longing rendition of Enio Morricone's „Nella Fantasia“, her ethereal folk delivery on „Lisa Lan“ and even her joyous duet with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa are an art in their own way.

While „Living a Dream“ seemed somewhat undecided with its splits between the worlds of „serious“ and „popular“ music, „Serenade“ knows exactly what it wants and how to get it. As it is getting colder and darker outside, its appeal is growing even more.

There are still plenty of reasons to dislike Katherine Jenkins for those who really want to. But for anyone following her career from the start, it is more than encouraging to see her defining her vision (if that is the word in this context) clearly and determinedly again.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Katherine Jenkins
Homepage: Universal Classics

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