We Are The Night, Part V: Cloud Ossuary
Our series, “We are the night” presents artists, promoters, production managers, label owners and others who are bringing the music world of the Czech Republic, from the past to the present and the present to the future. This week we review the album “Cloud Ossuary”, composed by Douglas Knehans and performed by Filharmonie Brno. Photo credit: Cloud Ossuary.
When I started this series, my target was clear: to expose new music of any form or any genre related to the Czech underground and mainstream scenes to an English-speaking audience.
When we received a request to review the album “Cloud Ossuary”, a piece performed by Filharmonie Brno, it switched on my curiosity and showed off that we are heading in a good direction, a direction with interviews as a central pivot, showing all the shades of interpretation that music can bring.
The work and the team behind the cloud
What is the background of each musician?
Douglas Knehans: You would know the storied and terrifically high-quality musical history of the Filharmonie Brno and also that of its stunning concertmaster, Pavel Wallinger, who acts as a soloist on this disc in my piece “Mist Waves”. Probably less known is that of the young soprano talent Judith Weusten. Judith sang the role of The Woman in my operatic monodrama “Backwards from Winter”. She is a stunning Dutch artist whose career is very correctly on a solid upward path. I love her voice and writing for her was a nice inspiration also for this disc.
The American-Australian composer Douglas Knehans has released an album with two distinct works, which you could choose to link together, or not.
The first, “Mist Waves”, is a solo for violin and strings performed by Czech violinist Pavel Wallinger, a 7-minute piece approaching the listener as a tormented but soft wind for the ears, and an introduction for the main pieces of the disc.
The second part is the album’s title symphony, “Cloud Ossuary”, three movements of symphony entitled: “the ossein cage”, “the breath clouded” and “Bones and all” (each an average of 7-8 minutes). The symphony is an expression of a successful and deep collaboration with Filharmonie Brno, led by Mikel Toms, who has a long-standing close relationship with the orchestra, including over 100 recordings of contemporary and classical repertoire.
On the final track of the album, the Dutch soprano Judith Weusten brings her voice to the nature and mysteries of the whole symphony, with the voice of the interpretation: the answers are not here yet, but the messages are numerous.
A poetic genesis
What motivated the creation of the album?
D.K.: Several years ago, my daughter, Katarina Knehans, who is a professional writer, showed me a text she wrote, which is kind of a longish free-style poetic story full of tremendous imagery and dreamlike scenarios around the theme of death, decay and rebirth. Once I saw this tremendous text, I knew I had to set it for soprano and orchestra. The other two movements of this symphony grew as a prelude to the longer lasting movement in which the soprano Judith Weusten acts as a soloist singing the text my daughter wrote.
The poem Bones and All was the starting point of the whole symphony. Katarina Knehans’ poem is darkly evocative, opening:
I tend to the land grief
It started as barren and broken waste,
So I watered it.
Since then she has worked more with her father, with her poetry cycle Watching glass, intended for mezzosoprano and piano.
Brno, the sky up to the clouds
How do you see the audience reaction towards classical music in the Czech Republic?
D.K.: I think Czech musicians are incredible and Filharmonie Brno appears to have a strong and loyal following for their amazing concerts. I hope this work might be given to a public performance in Brno one day, since the orchestra, as with all of my music, plays it so amazingly well!
The three tracks, interpreted by Filharmonie Brno, whose roots go back to the 1870s, have that atmospheric presence and strong waves of inner exploration, the perfect match of classical music in modern times, everything articulated around the instruments of the company initiated long ago by Leoš Janáček.
Let us hope for a concert soon, on the land of the South Moravian symphonic city….