RATHCOL (Philip Hammond) Knaifel Review

RATHCOL (Philip Hammond) review for Belfast Telegraph
Callino with Alexander Knaifel

The most recent music of Alexander Knaifel  seems like an exercise in total simplicity. Within the international contemporary composition, he would be classed as a “minimalist”, maybe even a “holy” minimalist. His music uses the minimal of material to achieve its effect.

Promoted by the adventurous Louth Contemporary Music Society in the contemplative surroundings of St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, on Friday 1st May, Knaifel’s music  explored that ambient and atmospheric territory between the borders of sound and silence, on the boundaries between movement and repose.

In some of the piano pieces, played by Oleg Malov, the childlike naïveté fascinated me but left me wondering what exactly I was listening to. Was this music at the other end of the spectrum of virtuosity? Certainly there was no room for vaunty display by the excellent performers in this concert and yet Knaifel’s music is not easy because  its very lack of pyrotechnics demands a total concentration on the sonorities being projected to the audience.

And for the audience this is not an easy listen – nothing goes much beyond a dynamic range from silent to quite soft. 

Knaifel’s music provides a safe space for thought, a space composed of a certain timelessness, not devoid of emotion, sentiment or feeling but a place which offers perhaps glimpses of transcendence. 

Do we always need music in which something is always happening in order to keep our attention? Knaifel’s music , even with its occasional platform effect or endearing antic, suggests that we don’t.

Philip Hammond (RATHCOL)