Ophelia’s Last Dance (Ophelia Dances, Book 2) is based on a melody dating from early in 1974, which was among several ideas intended for - but ultimately excluded from – Oliver Knussen’s Third Symphony (1973-79). Some of these evolved into the ensemble piece Ophelia Dances, Book 1 (1975), but this one, which nonetheless continued to haunt him from time to time over the years. After the death of his wife, Sue Knussen, it reminded the composer of a happier time and eventually, on the occasion of Paul Crossley’s 60th birthday recital in 2004, he decided to give it a tiny frame of its own so it could be shared with listeners other than the one in his head. The present 10-minute work - written in 2009/10 - is the result. A number of other ‘homeless’ dance-fragments, related more by personal history and mood than by anything more concrete, are bound together by means of variously wrought transitions to and from rondo-like recurrences of the original melody.
‘Superb... In it, darkness, dissonance and freezing high notes creep into the childlike idyll of the opening. The effect is one of austere sophistication.’
The New York Times (Zachary Woolfe), 23 April 2012
‘A gorgeous, nostalgia-drenched, Scriabin-like waltz.’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 28 May 2012