Knussen, (Stuart) Oliver

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Knussen, (Stuart) Oliver

Knussen, (Stuart) Oliver, English composer and conductor; b. Glasgow, June 12, 1952. Remarkably precocious, he began playing piano as a small boy and showed unusual diligence also in his composition studies, mostly with John Lambert (1963–69) while attending the Central Tutorial School for Young Musicians (1964–67). On April 7, 1968, he made musical headlines when, at the age of 15, he conducted the London Sym. Orch. in the premiere performance of his own 1st Sym., written in an eclectic, but astoundingly effective, modern style. He was awarded fellowships for advanced study with Schuller at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood (1970–73). From 1977 to 1982 he taught composition at the Royal Coll. of Music in London. He served as an artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festivals (from 1983) and as coordinator of contemporary music activities at Tanglewood (1986–93). He served as composer- in-residence of the Philharmonia Orch. in London from 1984. With Steuart Bedford, he served as co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1989. In 1994 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In his mature works, Knussen has revealed a penchant for experimentation with various styles and for revising scores without surcease, resulting in compositions of great refinement and lucidity.


dramatic:Opera: Where the Wild Things Are (1979-80; Bussels, Nov. 28, 1980; rev. 1980-83; London, Jan. 9, 1984); Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1983-85; Glyndebourne, Aug. 5, 1985). orch.: 3 syms.: No. 1 (1966-67; London, April 7, 1968), No. 2 for Soprano and Small Orch. (Windsor, Oct. 3, 1970; rev. 1970-71; Tanglewood, Aug. 18, 1971), and No. 3 (1973-79; London, Sept. 6, 1979); Concerto for Orchestra (1968-69; London, Feb. 1, 1970; rev. 1974); Choral for Wind Orch. (1970-72; Boston, Nov. 8, 1973); Music for a Puppet Court for 2 Chamber Orchs., after John Lloyd (1972, 1983; London, Aug. 23, 1983); Coursing for Chamber Orch. (1979); The Wild Rumpus from the opera Where the Wild Things Are (1983; London, July 21, 1987); Fanfares for Tanglewood for Brass and Percussion (Tanglewood, Aug. 2, 1986); Flourish with Fireworks, overture (1988). chamber:Processionals for Wind Quintet and String Quartet (1968, 1978; Bristol, Dec. 15, 1978); Masks for Flute (1969); 3 Little Fantasies for Wind Quintet (1970; rev. version, Kingston-upon-Thames, June 1, 1983); Turba for Double Bass (1971); Ophelia Dances, Book I, for Flute, English Horn, Clairnet, Horn, Piano, Celesta, Violin, Viola, and Cello (N.Y., May 9, 1975); Triptych: I, Autumnal, for Violin and Piano (1976-77; London, July 10, 1980), II, Sonya’s Lullaby, for Piano (1977-78; Amsterdam, Jan. 6, 1979), and III, Cantata, for Oboe and String Trio (1977; Athens, Sept. 17, 1979); Piano Variations (1989); Secret Song for Violin (1990); Songs Without Voices for 8 Instruments (N.Y., April 26, 1992). vocal:Hums and Songs of Winnie-the-Pooh for High Soprano, Flute, English Horn, Clarinet or Contrabass Clarinet, Percussion, and Cello (1970, 1983; Aldeburgh, June 14, 1983); Rosary Songs for Soprano, Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (London, Aug. 21, 1972); Océan de terre for Soprano, Flute or Alto Flute, Clarinet or Bass Clarinet, Percussion, Piano or Celesta, Violin, Cello, and Double Bass (1972-73; rev. version, London, July 29, 1976); Trumpets for Soprano and 3 Clarinets (London, Feb. 27, 1975); Frammenti da “Chiara” for 2 Women’s Choruses (1975, 1986; London, June 23, 1986); Songs and a Sea Interlude for Soprano and Orch. from the opera Where the Wild Things Are (1979-81; BBC, Feb. 14, 1981); 4 Late Poems and an Epigram of Rainer Maria Rilke for Soprano (1988); Whitman Settings for Soprano and Orch. or Piano (1991–92).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire