Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Oliver Knussen: Symphony No. 3

On Tuesdays we have a look at the Guardian to see what symphony Tom Service has chosen this week. I often disagree with the details of his discussion, but I always find the choices interesting, and particularly so this week as he has chosen a symphony by a composer I have certainly heard a lot about over the years, but with whose music I am not very familiar.

This week's article is on Oliver Knussen's Symphony No. 3, completed in 1979 when he was only 27. Knussen, born in Scotland, was a child prodigy, beginning to compose when he was only six and receiving a commission for his first symphony when he was only 15. When the conductor fell ill, he conducted the premiere himself with the London Symphony. His extensive catalogue includes works for all instruments in many genres including a lot of vocal music. He is also very well known as a conductor. Follow the link above for a fuller biography. He wasn't exactly "born under the piano" but very nearly as his father, Stuart Knussen, was principal double bass in the London Symphony.

Here is a clip of his Symphony No. 3, a remarkably brief composition only fifteen minutes in length:

It is certainly a charming and colorful work, well worth getting to know. It just slightly reminds me of the orchestral music of Esa-Pekka Salonen with its mysterious timbres. For whatever reason, Knussen has not returned to the genre of the symphony since this piece, but has written for a wide variety of ensembles, including two children's operas.

So, thanks to Tom for introducing a piece I would probably otherwise have missed.

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