Knussen, Oliver

Knussen, Oliver (Stuart Oliver Knussen), 1952–2018, British composer, conductor, and teacher, b. Glasgow, Scotland. A musical prodigy, he began to compose at age 6 and studied with, among others, Gunther Schuller (1970–73) at Tanglewood. At 15 he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in his First Symphony. Like his later work, it is subtle and modernist, but eclectic and very much his own. Knussen was extremely scrupulous in his composition, often reworking his scores over years and frequently missing commission deadlines. Perhaps his most popular composition is the opera written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Art (1980–83); a second Sendak-inspired opera, Higglety Pigglegy Pop! (1985), followed. His early works include a Concerto for Orchestra (1969) and the Second Symphony (1970), his first major work. In the 1970s, a productive period, he composed such works as Rosary Songs (1972), Ophelia Dances (1975), and his Third Symphony (1979). Among his later works are Whitman Settings (1991), Songs without Voices (1992), his horn (1994) and violin concertos (2002), Requiem: Songs for Sue (2006, written for his wife), and Ophelia's Last Dance (2010). Knussen was artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival (1983–98) and head of contemporary music at Tanglewood (1986–93).

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