Oliver Knussen, one of the most respected and lauded composer-conductors in the world today, will be in residence at the Eastman School of Music in December.
The School’s ensemble Musica Nova, under the direction of Brad Lubman, will devote an entire concert to his works. The selections span Knussen’s career, from “Ophelia Dances” (1975), a work that cemented his reputation early on, to “Songs without Voices” (1992) and “Requiem: Songs for Sue” (2006, dedicated to the memory of his late wife Sue Knussen), works that are established in contemporary repertoire.
Lubman was assistant conductor to Knussen at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1989 to 1994. In addition, Lubman was a composition fellow at Tanglewood in 1990, studying with Knussen.
Joining Musica Nova for the all-Knussen concert are four members of SIGNAL, a New York City-based ensemble co-founded by Lubman and cellist Lauren Radnofsky. Formed in 2008, SIGNAL has been described by the New York Times as “one of the most vital groups of its kind” and appears in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall to Tanglewood. Radnofsky returns to the Kilbourn Hall stage for the concert with fellow Eastman alumni Bill Kalinkos, clarinet, and Courtney Orlando, violin; they’ll be joined by mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway.
Knussen will attend the Musica Nova concert, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, in the Eastman School’s Kilbourn Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. The concert is part of the Festival Week of events celebrating the opening of the Eastman East Wing, which houses new teaching, performance, and rehearsal spaces for the School, and “The New Eastman Evolution.”
Composer-Conductor Commands International Recognition
Born in 1952, Knussen was two months’ shy of 16 when he made his debut in April 1968, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of his First Symphony. Four decades later, Knussen was hailed as “a profoundly influential composer, conductor, and educator of today’s musical culture” when he won the 2006 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition.
Knussen’s music has been described as technically complex and often fiendishly challenging for performers, but also vivid and direct. “His music is instantly likeable, elegant, melancholy and exhilarating . . . He writes his jewel-like scores carefully, with great technical rigour, but there remains at the heart of his music an unanxious playfulness,” wrote The Guardian earlier this year. In addition to writing orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and vocal works, Knussen has collaborated with writer Maurice Sendak on an operatic double-bill, Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop.
Knussen has conducted orchestras around the world, including the London Sinfonietta, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and others, and made numerous appearances in Japan at Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City. As a conductor, he has recorded more than 30 CDs of contemporary music, several of which have won international awards.
Among Knussen’s many awards are Honorary Memberships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal Philharmonic Society, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Association of British Orchestras Award, and the 2007 British Composer Award for &”Requiem: Songs for Sue.”
While in residence at Eastman, Knussen will address the composition department, hold a master class, and attend Musica Nova rehearsals.
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Thursday, December 9
Musica Nova. Brad Lubman, conductor; Oliver Knussen, guest composer. With guest artists from the New York-based ensemble SIGNAL: Lauren Radnofsky, cello; Bill Kalinkos, clarinet, Courtney Orlando, violin, and Rachel Calloway, mezzo-soprano. Knussen, Songs without Voices, Ophelia Dances, Hums and Songs, Three Little Fantasies, Trumpets, Requiem: Songs for Sue.
Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs St.