Katherine Jenkins Première Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Première is a slickly produced album taking us from famous classical tunes such as...

BBC Wales 2004

Hitting the headlines with the largest ever record deal in UK classical music - a reported £1m - a beautiful 23-year-old school teacher from Neath is about to blaze onto our TVs in an avalanche of hype.

Launching her debut album Première, soprano Katherine Jenkins says she is responding to people's increasing boredom with pop music.

With CD artwork which could be straight from a Cosmopolitan cover shoot, the former Welsh Choir Girl of the Year follows hot on the heels of Charlotte Church and New Zealander Hayley Westenra, whose voices and images of angelic youthfulness have won massive record sales. Indeed, the release of Première was brought forward by two weeks due to popular demand.

These so-called 'classical crossover' artists certainly know how to get around the perceived difficulty in getting to like classical music, that centuries-old tradition of lengthy music for the mind and sounds with substance.

Crossover tracks are as bite-sizingly short as pop songs and their popular tunes often have never belonged to a real opera or symphony. The sales of real classical music, featuring highly skilled singers and performers, have been left trailing.

Katherine Jenkins repeats this unbeatable formula with a Welsh flavour. Première is a slickly produced album taking us from famous classical tunes such as 'Miserere' to Welsh hymns such as 'Cwm Rhonnda'. By the time a soft drumbeat gently kicks in on 'Baïlèro', it's clear we're in chill-out territory.

Great - but Katherine Jenkins says she also wants to be respected by people who are already lovers of classical music. So why do the composers who created the beautiful music she sings only get credited in the CD sleeve's small print, next to her thanks for having "the world's best management team"? Hiding away the fact that 'Sweetest Love' is based on Bach's 'Air On A G String' doesn't bring any one closer to feeling a bit more comfortable around classical music.

The short but sweet, sentimental arrangements featured on Première have more to do with the world of pop music, as does its total length of just 45 minutes. And while Katherine Jenkins' voice is gentle and wholesome, it's also heavily produced and we don't hear any variety in tone.

Despite this, Wales has a new superstar who will warm the cockles of many hearts and make millions of pounds: Katherine Jenkins will headline the Albert Hall before Wales next triumphs in the Six Nations.

Just as long as no one tells me it's a virtuoso performance. Oh wait - what does that sticker say on the CD cover?

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