At first, with fixed pitches spread fan-like across the register, assertive women’s voices sustain their position supported by blocks of massed male chanting. A thinned texture revolving around small intervals leads gradually again to multiple, broad, almost orchestral strokes in which small changes in pitch or articulated vowels cause the sustained sounds to shimmer, to take on instrumental colours. As the forces of the choir alternate in supporting or interrupting roles, the work gradually unfolds towards a dense group polyphony, finally to come to rest slowly in a cavernous, only slightly decorated, sustained mass recitative.
Knephas was commissioned by the Almeida Festival for James Wood and the New London Chamber Choir and was first performed by them in June 1990. It is dedicated to Marc Dondey and James Wood.
from notes by Nouritza Matossian © 1998