Concerts and events celebrating the life and music of Oliver Knussen (1952-2018) will take place in London at the end of April. On April 30th the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner perform three orchestral pieces at the Royal Festival Hall, joined by horn player Ben Goldscheider and soprano Sophie Bevan. The composer would have been 70 this year.

Goldscheider plays Knussen’s 1994 Horn Concerto, a 13-minute piece in a single movement of that is an exploration of Mahlerian Nachtmusik. Bevan sings the 12-minute Whitman Settings (1992), which sets four poems by Walt Whitman to Knussen’s imaginative orchestration and vocal writing. The concert opens with the Stravinsky-inspired 4-minute orchestral showpiece Flourish with Fireworks, a work of “unbounded effervescence” (Tom Service, the Guardian). Works by Maurice Ravel and Benjamin Britten complete the programme.

Before the concert musicians from the LPO and the Foyle Future Firsts programme will be joined by the Manson Ensemble from the Royal Academy of Music, an institution with which Knussen maintained a deep working relationship as Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music. At 5:30pm they perform a free concert featuring Knussen’s Two Organa and Songs and a Sea Interlude (from his opera Where the Wild Things Are) with soprano Cassandra Wright. At 3pm a panel discussion hosted by Sonya Knussen and Gillian Moore, Southbank Centre Director of Music, will explore Knussen's legacy, with contributions from composers including Colin Matthews, Julian Anderson, Mark Anthony-Turnage, Freya Waley-Cohen, Zoë Martlew, and Barrie Gavin. Pianist Goerge Fu performs Knussen's Ophelia's Last Dance.

On 28 April at 6:30pm at the Royal Academy of Music the Manson Ensemble perform three instrumental works by Knussen: Secret Psalm for unaccompanied violin, Prayer Bell Sketch for piano, and solo bassoon piece Study for ‘Metamorphosis’. The concert also showcases the world premiere of Dual by Colin Matthews for solo viola, as part of the RAM ‘200 Pieces’ project.  

Details of the performances can be found here. Knussen’s work will also be under the spotlight at this summer’s Aldeburgh Festival.