On 24 June 2022, Oliver Knussen’s unfinished Cleveland Pictures for orchestra will receive its long-awaited premiere as part of the Aldeburgh Festival. The work will be performed twice by Knussen’s regular collaborators the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Ryan Wigglesworth as part of special day devoted to Knussen’s music.
From Rodin and Fabergé to Goya and Turner, each movement of the Cleveland Pictures brilliantly translates a different item from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art into sound. Even in its incomplete form, at 15 ½ minutes the work ranks as one of Knussen’s most extensive orchestral statements. Of seven projected movements, four exist complete, two exist as fully-orchestrated fragments, and one exists only as a 10-bar sketch in short score:
I. Portail avec Penseur (Rodin)
II. Calabazas (Velásquez)
III. Dans les vagues (Gauguin) [a fragment]
IV. Two Clocks (Tiffany/Fabergé)
V. St. Ambrose (Goya)
VI. Don Quixote (Masson) [sketch only]
VII. The Burning of the Houses of Parliament (Turner) [a fragment]
While the origins of the project stretch back into the 1990s, Knussen began intensive work on the pieces in 2003, finally conducting the New World Symphony in a private read-through of the extant material in 2008.
Sam Wigglesworth, Director of Performance Music writes:
“It is a huge privilege to be publishing Knussen’s Cleveland Pictures. Throughout the many painstaking discussions that have led to this point, Sonya Knussen and I have always been united in our belief that every note of these extraordinarily vivid orchestral pieces must be presented exactly as Knussen left them – with no interventions or attempts at completion. Knussen’s music, in all its meticulous artistry and dazzling invention, speaks for itself. We are so grateful to Roger Wright at Britten Pears Arts for creating the special context needed for the first public performance, and we are very excited to share this important work with listeners.”
The US premiere of the Cleveland Pictures is being planned by the Cleveland Orchestra, who originally commissioned Knussen and has been gracious in allowing these first performances in Snape Maltings to go ahead.
For more details about the Cleveland Pictures, and to enquire about performance opportunities, please contact Sam Wigglesworth