Compelling music of Douglas Knehans

Ostro is a southerly wind in the Mediterranean Sea. Warm and humid, it often carries rain. Mistral is a strong, cold northwesterly wind that blows through the Rhône valley and southern France into the Mediterranean, mainly in winter. Elesian (or Elysian) conveys in its title the blessed peace at the end of all things mortal, where all winds are but gentle breezes.

The three titles: Ostro, Mistral, Elesian describe what the compelling concerto for flute TEMPEST of Douglas Knehans eloquently portrays in music that is at times jittery, at others elegiac, and still later in the third movement elegantly playful. Conceived as a tour de force concerto for the protean Gareth Davies, the principal flute player of the London Symphony Orchestra here soloing with the superb Brno Philharmonic Orchestra helmed by conductor Mikel Toms, the performance is as the composition itself nothing short of brilliant.

Whatever Knehans means by Tempering, the title to the first movement of UNFINISHED EARTH the intriguing composition that lends its title to this CD – perhaps to modify the character of the music by tempering it as one does steel – one thing is clear: this is massively orchestrated music – robust in its use of the brass and percussion, and altogether riveting.

In Eternal Ocean – the second of three movements – the ebb and flow of a great body of water is depicted by the use of woodwind and horn soli eerily paired to cluster chords in the lower strings, and by the use of a sort of moto perpetuo that underpins the entire movement. A full outburst breaks the quietude of the movement with the unpredictability of the ocean itself. Then an ominous choral progression accompanying an ascent into the upper range of the entire string section leads to yet another climactic moment. And finally the music subsides into rocking waves of melody.

Tearing Drift – the third movement – is tempestuous and unrelenting in its musical depiction of troubled waters. But, in the midst of all this 21st century musical Sturm und Drang there is nobility of utterance. Ultimately the angst expressed in this jagged, dangerous, electrifying music leads to a cathartically huge sonic explosion at the end of the movement.

Unfinished Earth, an unerringly original work, earns a rightful place among great compositions in the canon that depict with organized sound the utterly disorganized in nature and in human emotions.

The ABLAZE RECORDS CD is also available as a download in a number of platforms.

Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS

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