‘In the pantheon of composers, I stand nowhere’

‘In the pantheon of composers, I stand nowhere’


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2015

The quote is from the admirably grounded Karl Jenkins in his new autobiography, Still with the Music (p. 223).

This morning Karl, 71, became the first Welsh-born composer ever to receive a knighthood.

Arise, Sir Karl.



  • John Borstlap says:

    The ‘pantheon’ has never been open to pop-, film- and cross-over-music.

    • ruben greenberg says:

      I had never heard of this composer or heard his music. I listened to a couple of things on YouTube and they sound like pop-crossover music at about its worst. It’s not that I don’t like this music; it’s that I find it profoundly depressing.

      • Furzwängler says:

        Have to agree. It’s a bit like (inadvertently) hearing David Gray wailing away on BBC Radio : “Music to commit suicide to”, as someone once described it.

        Apropos Jenkins, his modesty is, however, commendable. It reminds me of Richard Strauss’s comment to the effect that “I may not be a first rank composer, but I am a first rate composer of the second rank”. (Not that I agree with the creator of Salome and Elektra and Rosenkavalier’s self-estimation, as in my view he was firmly of the first rank.)

    • jaypee says:

      Who named you president of this pantheon?

    • William Safford says:

      Gershwin? Prokofiev?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Of course they are real, serious composers – but incomparably more talented that this Mr Jenkins, who rightly does not make any claims.

        • William Safford says:

          Gershwin and Prokofiev are just two examples of “pop” (Gershwin) or “movie” (both) or “crossover” (Gershwin again) composers in the pantheon.

          I have no opinion about Mr. Jenkins.

  • will says:

    Sir Karl does not write ‘pop-, film- and cross-over-music.’
    He writes classical music that communicates powerfully and especially to people who maybe think that they ‘don’t like’ classical music.

    • CDH says:

      Give it up, Will. Leave them to their Boulez and Xenakis. Jenkins is not ground-breaking in my (admittedly limited) experience. But I wouldn’t walk out of a hall.

    • Anne says:

      What, precisely, does it “communicate” powerfully?

      What you really mean is some people like to have it playing in the background while they are doing something else.

      • Jorge Grundman says:


        Many people work while is listening in the background Mozart or Debussy, specially this last one…

    • John Borstlap says:

      He does not write ‘classical music’. Anybody, even only superficially experienced in listening to classical music, will spot that immediately. It is music for people who find Mozart ‘too difficult’. Nothing wrong with it, but if labelled ‘classical music’ it will hinder potential new audiences ever to come to serious concerts.

  • John Babb says:

    Boulez has not given us permission to approve of this music so we’d best not do so.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Amusing that there are people thinking that the only choice in new music is: either Boulezbian inquisition or lukewarm limonade music, something like eating either gravel or mud.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    I don’t know whether Alun Hoddinott was ever knighted, but he was Welsh and a very interesting composer that deserves to be performed more often. I don’t know if he’s ever played in Britain, but he certainly isn’t on “the Continent” (sorry! I almost said Europe).

  • Simon Evnine says:

    ==the first Welsh-born composer ever to receive a knighthood

    No – not true.

    The actor Sir Anthony Hopkins has written a couple of really good film scores.
    Because they are also released on CD so I think he counts as a composer.