Karl Jenkins

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Britain's most successful contemporary composer, Karl Jenkins. He is most famous for developing a style that fuses his classical background with his interest in jazz and world music and his albums top the charts around the world. He was brought up in a small Welsh village and, after his mother died, lived with his father, grandmother and widowed aunt. His father taught him the piano when he was a child and in his teens he gravitated towards the oboe and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music.

His first musical career was as a jazz musician - he won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival and played venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and Ronnie Scott's. In the 1980s, he gave up life on the road and started writing advertising music and jingles. More awards followed, but he felt cramped by the nature of the work and wanted to write music that was more expansive. A track which he'd written for a minute long commercial went on to become the corner-stone of his most well-known work, The Adiemus Project.

He's said that it was only then that he realised his niche lay in composing work that was grounded in his classical upbringing but also benefited from his interest in jazz and world music. And, while critics have on occasion sneered at his work, he has collected countless gold and platinum discs and a worldwide audience.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: The Final trio from the third Act of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss
Book: The Michelin Guide to France by Michelin
Luxury: A piano

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Fri 15 Dec 2006 09:00


Role Contributor
PresenterKirsty Young
Interviewed GuestKarl Jenkins

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