Douglas Knehans’ lovely composition for solo violin and orchestra Mist Waves (2019) is in the words of its composer “…about land-based cloud and how this forms in waves, sometimes thick and predictable and at other times lightening up and revealing more to us… a metaphor for me of a type of human consciousness and how things are known and unknown to us in mixtures of known and ungraspable.”
The work was given its premiere in the original version for violin and piano by violinist Madeleine Mitchell and pianist Michael Delfin. The current orchestral version was prepared for the ABLAZE CD that features a superb rendition by the Brno Philharmonic, led by Mikel Tom with violin soloist Pavel Wallinger.
The album’s longest work is Cloud Ossuary, a three-part symphony, whose third movement features a haunting poetic text by Katarina Knehans, lovingly sung by soprano Judith Weusten.
As much of Knehans’ work, Cloud Ossuary is at first seemingly atonal though not lacking in melodic sweep, even in its most dramatic moments, like in Breathe Clouded the work’s second movement in which the strings are at first summoned to create a seamless, ethereal sound by mining the uppermost reaches of their range, at times sounding less like acoustic instruments and more like electronic devices.
A kind of perpetual motion melody rises from the lower strings to then combine with an assembly of woodwinds and muted brass in, again, a sound that mimics electronics, but one that is at once softened and made more lyrical.
Bones and All is the title of the third movement. In it the composer proves himself once more a past master of writing for the voice, setting the complex text by Katarina Knehans with perfect command of the genre. The 26-minute-long movement – the longest in the work – is filled with musical turmoil that effectively echoes the ranging emotions expressed in the text.
It is not until the very final moments of the final movement that a hard-earned peace reigns, with the words “… we sit together eating tropical fruits, shrouded by sunlight, a greenish-golden glow bouncing off my skin and refracting off their exposed bones. They cannot be touched here, things are clean, soft. We are loved by the sun, bones and all.”
Those words give closure to an impressive work by Douglas Knehans, an ever-challenging, ever-surprising musical artist.
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