• Find us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Follow us on Instagram
  • View Our YouTube Channel
  • Listen on Spotify
  • View our scores on nkoda

Decca Records has announced the premiere recording of Karl Jenkins’s concerto Stravaganza, featuring star saxophonist Jess Gillam, coupled with a new symphonic version of one of his most enduring works, Palladio Reimagined. As a highlight of the composer’s 80th birthday year, Stravaganza can also be heard at the BBC Proms, with Jess Gillam joining the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on 12 August.

A new album of world premiere recordings of works by legendary composer Karl Jenkins, Stravaganza, has been announced by Decca Records. Featuring his saxophone concerto of the same name – written for and performed by star saxophonist Jess Gillam – the album also includes a vibrant reimagining of Jenkins’s beloved work Palladio, heard here in a brand-new orchestration by the composer.

The recording is the first since Decca honoured Karl Jenkins with a historic lifetime deal, celebrating the composer’s 80th birthday and recognising his enduring musical appeal. Stravaganza is released on Friday 9 August, coinciding with its live performance at the BBC Proms (Prom 32, 12 August). The first single – the first movement of Palladio Reimagined – is out now.

> Listen to Palladio Reimagined: Allegretto

Stravaganza, which means ‘eccentric’ in Italian, explores themes of carnival and extravagant fantasy and was written especially for Jess, inspired by her experience of first trying a saxophone at a carnival centre in her native Cumbria. The four-movement work blends Jenkins’s backgrounds in jazz and classical music, and features some truly virtuosic moments for the soprano saxophone, played here by Jess with her trademark skill and expressiveness.

The concerto was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the Deutschen Symphonie-Orchester, receiving its first performance at the Berlin Philharmonie in June 2023 with the DSO and Jess Gillam as the soloist. Although Jenkins has composed a sequence of earlier concertos, collected together on the Quirk album on the Decca label, the creation of Stravaganza in 2019 had a personal significance: the composer studied oboe at the Royal Academy of Music in London and worked as a reed player for many years in the 1970s with jazz-rock fusion groups Nucleus and Soft Machine.

> Pre-order Stravaganza, released on Decca Records on Friday 9 August

Stravaganza is performed at the BBC Proms on Monday 12 August, performed by Jess Gillam and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under conductor Nil Venditti. This is the first time that Karl Jenkins’s music has been featured at the Proms.

> Visit the BBC Proms website

Karl Jenkins said:The inspiration for Stravaganza is that Jess first played a saxophone and found her musical home in a carnival centre, having first tried the stilts and then the drums. The work is in four movements, and a certain eccentricity or quirkiness pervades throughout. In many ways it is programmatic, but the listener may create her or his eccentric fantasies. To my delight, Jess chose the soprano saxophone (the highest in pitch of those in common use) for this particular ‘parade’. It has been wonderful to work with Jess on this over the last few years and to see her bring this concerto to life.

Palladio Reimagined is an epic reworking of Jenkins’s 1995 work Palladio for string orchestra. The original work was inspired by sixteenth-century architect Andrea Palladio and was made famous by the De Beers TV advert ‘A Diamond is Forever’ in the 1990s. Later, Escala’s string quartet version of the first movement shot into the singles chart following their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. The piece has established a permanent position in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame, and the first movement (Allegretto) remains Jenkins’s biggest streaming track, with over 175 million streams to date. In this new arrangement by the composer, the piece is not only heard with a fuller orchestration but is also extended, allowing listeners to hear one of Jenkins’s most popular works completely anew.

Karl Jenkins added: “Palladio seemed an ideal companion piece to Stravaganza to balance the recording, but with changes. I decided to add some wind instruments that came into baroque music to add a new timbre to the original instrumentation, and so Palladio Reimagined was created. It is bigger, more dramatic and exciting and with a lot more colour than before, with different instruments swapping phrases like a musical ‘Q&A’.

The artwork for Stravaganza is taken from a new piece by the eminent Italian painter Andrea Vizzini. After discovering one of his paintings in Venice in 1997, Karl’s wife remarked that it looked like Karl’s music sounded, and later discovered that Vizzini had been working listening to his music, completely by coincidence!

The album forms part of celebrations for Karl Jenkins’s 80th birthday year, which have also included a special boxset featuring some of the composer’s most popular works, a documentary on his life and work on Marquee TV, a major UK tour and a lifetime deal with Decca - the first time the label has bestowed such an honour on any artist.

One of the most performed living composers in the world, his seminal work The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace was recently voted fourth in the 2024 Classic FM Hall of Fame, the highest entry for a living composer.

About Karl Jenkins
Sir Karl Jenkins CBE is, globally, among the most performed living composers. In 2023 his music was played at the Coronation of King Charles III and The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace gained the unique status of having achieved “1000 Weeks” in the UK Classical chart Since then The Armed Man has ranked fourth in the Classic FM Hall of Fame – the highest-ever position for a living composer, fifth in CFM’s list of Great British Classics and it was selected to represent the decade 2000-2009 in BBC Radio 3’s Soundscape of a Century.

Karl Jenkins read music at Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, London. Resisting categorization, his style and integrity have transcended musical boundaries: jazz at Ronnie Scott’s Club; first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Nucleus, jazz fusion with Soft Machine, award-winning advert soundtracks (Levis, British Airways, Audi); scoring a Kiefer Sutherland movie; the Freedom of the City of London, BBC Desert Island Discs, ITV South Bank Show and, in the distant past, recording sessions with many: Elton John, George Harrison, Andrew Lloyd Webber…

Together with his global ‘cross-genre’ phenomenon Adiemus (1995), his best-known work is The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (2000), which has received 3000 performances around the globe since its millennium premiere.

Memorable performances include New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11; as well as the Mercedes Benz Arena, Berlin with the World Orchestra for Peace and a choir of 2000 from 30 countries, commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I.

These two works have been pivotal to his future oeuvre over 30 years, as he continued to progress ideas seen in those pieces; peace, multiculturism and the inclusion of global instrumentation and text, often set alongside the traditional sacred Latin: Requiem, Stabat Mater, Gloria, Miserere, The Peacemakers.

Karl Jenkins has 17 ‘gold and platinum’ discs for his output. Alongside his solo recordings, he has written music for Sir Bryn Terfel, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Leslie Garrett, Rolando Villazon, Milos Karadaglic, Jess Gillam and the London Symphony Orchestra.
His reach as a composer is global, with concerts at The Royal Albert Hall, Zaryadye Hall Moscow, Carnegie Hall, The Forbidden City Concert Hall Beijing, the NCPA Mumbai and Buckingham Palace.

Karl Jenkins was awarded a Knighthood in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours and his autobiography Still with the Music was published by Elliott & Thompson. His music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes and he is a Decca Records recording artist. In 2024 Decca bestowed upon him the unprecedented distinction of a Lifetime deal, the first time the label has made such a commitment to any artist.

His most recent work is One World, conducted by the composer and performed by the World Choir for Peace and the World Orchestra for Peace. It was released by Decca Records in summer 2023, going straight to number one in the UK Classical chart and received its concert premiere at the Brucknerhaus in Linz in November 2023 with over 700 singers from around the world.

His recent saxophone concerto Stravaganza was premiered by Jess Gillam and the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin at the Berlin Philharmonie in June 2023, and will be performed at the BBC Proms in August 2024.

“As a composer he recognises no boundaries – musical, commercial, geographical, or cultural. His is a way of thinking and composing that is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the times” – citation on receiving CFM’s ‘Red f ‘award for ‘outstanding service to classical music’.

About Jess Gillam
Jess Gillam is celebrated as a leading figure of the saxophone. With her electrifying performances, vibrant stage presence and magnetic personality, the ‘uniquely mercurial’ (The Times) Jess Gillam has been invited to play on the world’s major stages since becoming the youngest ever soloist to perform at the Last Night of the Proms and was hailed for her ‘effortless virtuosity and limitless expressiveness’ (Arts Desk). Equally at home behind the microphone, Gillam has shattered glass ceilings as the youngest ever presenter for BBC Radio 3 with her award-winning weekly show, This Classical Life.

Passionate about broadening the repertoire for the saxophone, Jess Gillam gives the premieres of various works in the current and forthcoming seasons; this includes Glasslands by Anna Clyne (co-commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y León, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, NAC Orchestra Ottawa and Naples Philharmonic). Further premieres include the world premiere of Dani Howard’s Saxophone Concerto with London Chamber Orchestra and the UK premiere of Karl Jenkins’ Stravaganza with BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Gillam is Artist in Focus with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Glasshouse International Centre for Music for the 2023/24 season and continues to be Associate Artist of the Royal Albert Hall and Artistic Partner with the Manchester Camerata.

Highlights of Gillam’s concerto appearances have included performances with the BBC, DSO Berlin, Gothenburg, Iceland, Lahti and London Symphony Orchestras as well as the London, Royal Liverpool and Munich Philharmonics, among others. Further afield, concerto highlights in the US have included the Houston Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra. This season sees Gillam debut with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra as well as return to the NDR Elbphilharmonieorchester, performing James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto under Marin Alsop. She also tours with the Manchester Camerata (including a debut performance at the Enescu Festival) and appears with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Hallé and BBC Concert Orchestra.

On the recital stage, Jess Gillam is seen performing across Europe, the US and beyond. As an ECHO Rising Star in 2022/23 season, Gillam has appeared throughout Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw (where she will return in June 2024), Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthuset Stockholm and Barcelona’s Palau de le Musica. She has also performed recitals at the Kissinger Sommer, Schleswig-Holstein and Heidelberger Frühling music festivals. Following her Carnegie Hall debut in the 2022/23 season and recital at the Aspen Music Festival, she returns to the US this season and makes her Boston Celebrity Series debut.

Jess Gillam loves to collaborate and bring people together to enjoy sparky and energetic performances. She formed her band, the Jess Gillam Ensemble, in 2019. Their bold, uplifting and open-minded approach is rooted in classical music but takes inspiration from different musical worlds. Gillam’s carefully curated programmes provide a new spin on C.P.E. Bach, groove in the music of John Harle, Anna Meredith and Barbara Thompson as well as folk infusions and soaring melodies through works by Sakamoto, J.S. Bach and Björk. Since their launch, the ensemble released their chart-topping album, TIME, and have performed throughout the UK and Europe to largely sold-out audiences at venues and festivals including the Wigmore Hall, Latitude Festival, Mozartfest Augsburg, Bath Festival.

Alongside her performance work, Gillam is a keen TV and Radio presenter. Her weekly show on BBC Radio 3, This Classical Life, is in its fifth season and has garnered high praise from The Guardian who wrote: 'There are many more established presenters who lack Gillam’s warmth and impressive ability’. In 2020, This Classical Life was awarded the ARIA Award for Best Specialist Music Show. As a guest presenter, Gillam has worked for BBC Radio 2, co-hosted on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and presented at the BBC Proms and BBC Young Musician of the Year.

As an exclusive recording artist with Decca Classics, Jess Gillam is the first and only saxophonist to be signed to the major label. Both her albums have reached No. 1 in the UK Classical Music Charts and her debut album, Rise, was listed in The Times’ Top 100 albums of 2019. Her second album, TIME, was released to critical acclaim in 2020; ‘Gillam’s agile soprano saxophone soars impressively… before gliding gracefully in and around a hive of textural activity that builds up to a frenetic ending’ (Gramophone on her recording of Michael Nyman Where the Bee Dances).

In 2016, Jess Gillam made history after becoming the first saxophonist to reach the Finals of BBC Young Musician of the Year. She has been the recipient of a Classic BRIT Award, a The Times Breakthrough Award nominee and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2021 for Services to Music. Returning to her roots in Ulverston in Cumbria, Gillam continues to promote her own concert series in her hometown, inviting internationally renowned artists, a series she founded at age 12. She is a patron for Young Sounds UK, Music in Secondary Schools Trust, the London Music Fund and is a member of the Council of the Royal Philharmonic Society. Gillam is a Vandoren UK Artist and became the youngest ever endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones aged just 13.

For further press information please contact Premier PR:
Yasmin Hoy: [email protected] | +44(0) 718 068008
Victoria Bevan: [email protected] | +44(0) 791 764318

For more information on the composer and his music visit:
> Karl Jenkins at Boosey & Hawkes
> Karl Jenkins website

>  Further information on Work: Stravaganza

Photo: © Rhys Frampton

>  News Search

Stay updated on the latest composer news and publications