With a gift for extravagant color, beautiful melodic style, clear musical form and engaging, soulfully dramatic work, the music of award winning composer Douglas Knehans has gained the attention and warm appreciation of audiences and performers around the world. Knehans’ two-piano work cascade has been performed in Steinway Hall, New York; UIC Recital Hall, Chicago; Tokyo, Japan; Kiev, Ukraine and recorded for worldwide CD release on Ablaze Records by the virtuoso piano duo The Pridonoff Duo in a recording hailed by Fanfare Magazine as “ … effective … incisive … hauntingly beautiful … ” A disc of his orchestral concertos was released on Ablaze Records in the fall of 2015 which was called “ … music of tremendous imagination. Knehans scores with a masterly hand, his sound paintbrush unerringly hitting the mark.” by Fanfare Magazine. In that same year a disc of his choral music was released and was praised also in Fanfare as “…a radiant disc of music by a composer who is blessed with a tremendous imagination and who clearly has great affinity with writing for choir. There is a huge amount of beauty to be found here. Put simply, Knehans locates and amplifies the spiritual within the religious.,” while Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review said it "... shows us a mastery of his craft and an inspired result.,” and The New Yorker said “…the sounds of nature course through the orchestral pieces on his latest album, “Unfinished Earth,” with a primitive force and melodic insistence that recall Stravinsky.”
Since 1980, Knehans has been the recipient of numerous commissions, awards and fellowships in Australia and the U.S. Most notably, the inaugural $20,000.00 Victorian Council for the Arts Composition Fellowship (1987-88) which enabled him to write his first chamber opera the ascension of robert flau; a Bicentennial orchestral commission for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (1988) from the Australian Bicentennial Authority; over a dozen commissions (1986-1988) for various media supported by the Australia Council Performing Arts Board; Fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (1989) and the Leighton Artist Colony (1989), and a composer-in-residence grant from Meet the Composer, Inc. (1990), The American Prize for Orchestral Music (2012) and the Winner of the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition (2011), the Gold Medal-Best in Show from the Global Music Awards (2016) for his disc Concertos, and Best Contemporary Classical Album from the Independent Music Awards in New York City and Best Classical Album from the Clouzine International Music Awards in addition to three silver medals at the Global Music Awards.
In 2000, he was invited to participate in the Czech-American Summer Music Institute in Prague. During this three-week residency in Prague he also visited Terezin and Auschwitz—Birkenau. These visits gave rise to the composition of his "shoah requiem" for soloists, choir and orchestra, the Introit of which was performed as part of the 2001 Incontri di Musica Sacra Contemporenea events in Bari, Taranto and Rome Italy and broadcast nationally on RAI Television and Radio. In 2002, his work Seraphic Ride was given its world premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. by soloists from the National Symphony Orchestra and streamed worldwide from the Kennedy Center. 2003 saw his work Rive played in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart, Australia as well as in London for the American Music Center and in Athens and Thessoloniki by the acclaimed Verdehr Trio. In 2005, Knehans was invited to return to the 2005 Incontri di Musica Sacra Contemporanea where his work for mezzosoprano and orchestra In Questi Giorni was given in L'Aquila and Rome. Prior to this trip, his work Lamentation, for string orchestra was premiered as part of the Ten Days on the Island International Arts Festival. In 2006, he was invited to the New Music - New Faces Festival in Cracow, Poland where he lectured on new music and composition and his work Rive was given its Polish premier by the Verdher Trio. Resulting from this performance he was invited to the Music Premieres of the Season Festival in Kiev, Ukraine, 2007 and to lecture in electroacoustic composition at the Academy of Music in Cracow, Poland and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Israel. Also in 2007 Knehans was commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for a new work for solo violin and strings resulting in his …Mist, Memory, Shadow…. 2008 saw the world premiere of his work Glow, a double concerto (for violin and clarinet) at the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute in Hobart, Australia. In 2009 his large orchestra work Ripple was set to dance by award winning Chinese choreographer JIANG Qi and given in Cincinnati and with the Ballet West (Salt Lake City); and his work Seraphic Ride was given as part of the SPECTRUM New Music Series at the Esplanade in Singapore, about the composition of which the Washington Post said “The piece tells an exciting story, ever-intensifying in color, thematic ideas, texture and tempo.”
Douglas Knehans (b. 1957, St. Louis, Missouri), received his initial music education at the Canberra School of Music (Australian National University) in Australia’s national capital, where he graduated in 1980 with a high distinction in music composition, the only such awarded that year. In 1990 he received scholarships and awards from Queens College, City University of New York where he gained his M.A. in composition with Distinguished Professor and renowned composer Thea Musgrave. Upon graduation from this institution he received the first Luigi Dallapiccola Composition Award (1991) for outstanding achievement in music composition. After graduating from Queens College, Knehans entered the Doctoral program at Yale University where he studied music composition with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jacob Druckman, Lukas Foss, and Jonathan Berger. He graduated Yale University in 1993 earning the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize (1993) for best composition in a larger form, receiving his Doctoral degree from Yale University in January, 1996.
In 1993, Knehans was appointed to the University of Alabama School of Music, where he was chair of Composition, Theory and Electronic Music and Director of the SCREAM (Southern Center for Research into ElectroAcoustic Music) Studio. Between 2000-2006 he was the Tasmanian State Chair, Federal Board member, Chair, and Executive Director (Syllabus Development) Music Craft of the Australian Music Examinations Board. In 2005 he created the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute and from 2005-2008 he was the Artistic and Executive Director of that Institute. He was Professor of Music and Director of the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music between 2000-2008, and Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati from 2008-2010. He is currently the Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar at CCM.
Douglas Knehans is also Director and Producer of ABLAZE Records, an Australian-American Company specializing in supporting new music of living composers. ABLAZE Records pursues this mission with a robust series of recordings of Electronic and Computer music; New Orchestral Recordings with the brilliant Czech Orchestra Filharmonie Brno (the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra) and conductor Mikel Toms; as well as a choral series of recordings using the Coro Volante Choir of Cincinnati under the director of Brett Scott, with discs distributed worldwide on NAXOS Music Library, iTunes, Albany Music Distributors and others. He work is published by Armadillo Edition, Alexander Street Press and Alea Publishing imprints.