As part of the 73rd Aldeburgh Festival’s celebration of the music of Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Tansy Davies present two new works on 24 June: O, for soprano and piano trio receives its world premiere, as does Davies’ gem; Matthews’ Three Fragments (2020) also receives its UK premiere from cellist Anssi Karttunen.
O is a 3-minute setting of Christopher Reid, whose poem gives the piece its title – a tribute to the “wondrous, hooting, swooping vowel”, from his collection Mr. Mouth. “It could not have been more perfect for setting as a small tribute to a great friend”, said Matthews of O, which references Knussen’s beloved owls. It will be performed by soprano Claire Booth, with Tamsin Waley-Cohen on violin, Huw Watkins on piano, and Anssi Karttunen on cello.
Karttunen also premieres gem for solo cello, Tansy Davies’ 4-minute tribute to Knussen. “Like me he was a Gemini”, Davies says. “The title is a reflection on that as well as his ability to create gem-like music of incredible precision and sparkling beauty.”
“gem is a playful dance, muscular, with a hint of tango”, Davies added. “I hope to have captured something of the essence of Olly’s spirit totem; the owl - a night bird, a seer of minuscule detail and a possessor of binaural hearing…Olly’s perceptiveness, sensory and otherwise, was just like that.”
In the first concert of the day Karttunen performs Matthews’ Three Fragments. The 5-minute piece is cast in three short movements, and was first performed by Karttunen at the Gare du Nord, Bahnhof für Neue Musik, in Basel in November 2020. Karttunen’s Youtube recording demonstrates the breadth of sensitive and honest expression that characterise these miniatures.
Three concerts that day honour Knussen, culminating in the first performance of his Cleveland Pictures; there are also performances of Knussen’s unpublished Tarantella for solo cello, Eccentric Melody, Ophelia’s Last Dance for piano, as well as his Whitman Settings and Horn Concerto. George Benjamin’s 2002 Olicantus for chamber ensemble, a 50th birthday tribute to Knussen, will also be performed.