Knussen Symphonies at the Proms

Knussen Symphonies at the Proms
There have been many celebrations to mark Oliver Knussen’s 60th birthday, but one of the highlights has been a series of BBC Proms concerts – two symphonies and a handful of chamber works – marking the occasion. The first concert featured Knussen’s Second Symphony with soprano Gillian Keith, the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Gianandrea Noseda taking the audience on a journey from dreaming sleep to a dawn awakening. This was followed by a chamber Prom featuring Knussen’s ‘Ophelia’ compositions, Ophelia Dances Book 1 (for chamber ensemble) and Ophelia’s Last Dance  (for piano). Finally, Knussen himself took to the stage to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a resounding performance of his Third Symphony, ‘brought home’ as it were after being premiered at the Proms in 1979.
 
REVIEWS
'awash with beauties'
'every note in this intricate work is fastidiously placed’

‘a milestone of symphonic thinking from the post-war era…’

‘the real interest of the evening lay in their immaculate performance of Oliver Knussen’s “Symphony No 2”... the marmoreal beauty of the verse is gracefully reflected in the antiphonal relationship between singer and orchestra. Every note in this intricate work is fastidiously placed’
The Independent (Michael Church), 31 July 2012
 
‘The vocal lines [of Symphony No.2] are often stratospherically high floating above orchestral textures that are by turns intricately hyperactive and beguilingly becalmed; the scoring is light and the effect is of transience, of fleeting, fragile beauty that always remains just out of reach.’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 31 July 2012
 
‘never formally announced as such but an annual staple nevertheless, is the season’s Oliver Knussen Prom… always a big musical learning experience in a way few concerts are...It’s impossible not to be drawn in… Knussen’s own pivotal third symphony [was] compact and powerful… awash with beauties…’
The Guardian (Martin Kettle), 26 August 2012
 
‘the sheer variety and inventiveness of this 15-minute score [Symphony No.3] – among the most influential by a British composer after Michael Tippett – are undimmed 33 years after its world premiere… Whether in the hectic accumulation of activity of its first half, or the more gradual emergence of incident over its longer second half towards an exhilarating climax then chorale-based apotheosis and return to the spectral opening, the piece remains a milestone of symphonic thinking from the post-war era…’
Classical Source (Richard Whitehouse), 26 August 2012
 
‘the sounds [of the Third Symphony] were so diaphanously beautiful.’
The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 28 August 2012