DOUGLAS KNEHANS - Unfinished Earth

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DOUGLAS KNEHANS - Unfinished Earth - Flute Concerto "Tempest" - Gareth Davies (Flute) - Brno Philharmonic Orchestra - Mikel Toms (Conductor) - 646117666816 - Released: April 2018 - Ablaze Records AR-00036

The slow movement titled Mistral ... Funérailles of the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra "Tempest" by composer Douglas Knehans is what constantly draws me back, again and again, for yet another listen. Its main impetus, based on a descending two-note motif, is profoundly expressive and deeply moving. It evokes glimpses of shrouded memories from desolate corners of the past, and of times and places obscured by time. The slow and brumal orchestral undercurrent, like the wind it suggests, carries the flute along on the journey to its remote destination. This movement stays with you long after audition. It is bookended by two outer movements that very rarely allow Gareth Davies, principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra, to come up for air. They are bustling with activity and at times demand the highest degree of speed and virtuosity from the flautist, but Davies shrugs off even the most demanding leaps and runs. I pity the poor brass section players who sometimes have to echo the flute part. In the booklet notes, the value or merit of the "concerto" within today's music are put into question. With a potent and compelling example like this work, Douglas Knehans certainly puts any doubts to the concerto form's stance to rest. Something every flute player out there needs to hear.

The symphonic work titled Unfinished Earth, which deals with the subject of this planet's formation and evolution through the clout of colossal forces, which acts as a metaphor about the forces behind the human race's powerful shifts, certainly well reflects this within the music. The first movement's relentless battering and pummeling (similar to the end of the Shostakovich 5th) and the final movement's savagery - I've not heard a coda of such brutal ferocity in a while - well attest to the work's subject matter.

Unlike many of today's composers, Douglas Knehans (b. 1957) doesn't use the cookie-cutter, cut and paste approach with his music. This previous review of some of his choral music bears witness to his versatility and originality. Definitely a composer to keep on your radar.

Jean-Yves Duperron - March 2018