Oliver Knussen: Britten Sinfonia Focus

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The Britten Sinfonia have long been advocates of Oliver Knussen’s music – performing everything from his glittering chamber works through to the operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! – but a series of two London concerts in October will mark the first time the composer has conducted the orchestra himself.

In the first, at Milton Court, works by Mozart and Berg will frame Knussen’s deeply personal Requiem – Songs for Sue for soprano and ensemble (2006). His Violin Concerto (2002) will be presented alongside masterpieces by Stravinsky and Tippett in the main Barbican Hall.

One of Knussen’s most performed works, the Violin Concerto, begins and ends with the same arresting sonority – a clangourous tubular-bell chord and stratospheric high E on the Violin. ‘At times’, observes Knussen, ‘the soloist resembles a tightrope walker progressing along a (decidedly unstable) high wire strung across the span that separates the opening and closing sounds’.