Karl Jenkins' "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" is a departure from his Adiemus recordings into the more conventional territory of large-scale choral and orchestral writing, though his customary passion for mixing languages remains in full force with texts in English, Latin and French. Jenkins has said that "The Armed Man" was inspired by the "L'Homme armé" masses which were popular in the 16th century, and he makes this debt clear with passages written in a neat pastiche of Palestrina-style renaissance polyphony. There are also echoes of earlier and later styles, including plainchant, medieval ballads, James Barry-style horn writing (think "Goldfinger") and even a direct quote from Rigoletto (the choir imitates wind sounds at one point as in Act 3 of Verdi's opera). The smorgasbord manages to hold together, probably because Jenkins' obvious sincerity shines through every note. The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays beautifully, and treble Tristan Hambleton performs his solo with ethereal clarity. The National Youth Choir sings with vigour and accuracy, even if the young sopranos sound a little thin at the top of their range. If you liked the soundtrack to The Mission, this should press all the right buttons.
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