On 17 December, an extraordinary evening celebrating Knussen’s life and work was held at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he had been the Richard Rodney Bennett Professor. Tributes and performances by many of Knussen’s closest musical friends were given before an audience who had come from across the world to remember this most generous and inventive of musicians.
In October, the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave the US premiere of O Hototogisu! and Brad Lubman led Ensemble Signal in a memorial concert at the University of Buffalo. In Frankfurt, Giorgos Panagiotidis and Ueli Wiget from Ensemble Modern performed Knussen’s two works for violin and piano, Autumnal and Reflection, whilst in the UK, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group paired O Hototogisu! with the fascinating early ensemble work Processionals.
Further tributes are planned in Paris – where Brad Lubman will conduct Ensemble intercontemporain – and in Amsterdam, where O Hototogisu! will receive its Dutch premiere alongside the Requiem and Two Organa in a concert by Asko|Schönberg and its Ensemble Academie. The Tanglewood Festival, where Knussen was Head of Contemporary Music from 1986 to 1993, will present the orchestral version of the Whitman Settings.
Aldeburgh Festival Focus
The 2019 Aldeburgh Festival will feature a major focus on Knussen’s music, it has been announced. A newly formed chamber orchestra, named after Knussen, will perform his last work, O Hototogisu! whilst Fire, an unpublished capriccio for flute and string trio, will receive a special one-off performance from Adam Walker and members of the Britten Oboe Quartet. Other works are scattered throughout the festival, and Barrie Gavin’s documentary Sounds from the Big White House will also be shown.
Knussen was Artistic Director of the festival from 1983 to 1998 and gave his last public performances at Snape Maltings last summer.
UK Premiere of Metamorphosis
The UK premiere of Knussen’s Study for “Metamorphosis”, a 5-and-a-half-minute work for solo bassoon originally written in April 1972 and revised in 2018, was given at the Wigmore Hall in April by the Nash Ensemble’s Ursula Leveaux. The Metamorphosis of the title is Kafka’s, on which Knussen had once planned to base a large piece. He described this study as ‘a cartoon’ for the larger project. Faber Music will be publishing a new edition of Study for “Metamorphosis” in the coming months, together with O Hototogisu!.