The solo piano music of Oliver Knussen

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Oliver Knussen is one of Great Britain's most prominent composers of our day. He has been a presence on the contemporary music scene since the age of fifteen when he was thrust upon the stage to conduct his own First Symphony. He has written in just about every genre from large orchestral works to chamber ensembles, operas to art song. His introduction into the contemporary music scene in America was during his first trip to New York City and Boston in the late 1960s to study composition at Tanglewood. He has had a longstanding relationship with Tanglewood both as a student and as the Head of Contemporary Music Activities there from 1986 to 1998. Knussen enjoys as much success as a conductor as he has as a composer. His discography boasts recordings of contemporary music of many historic figures of contemporary music with Knussen at the podium. Painstaking attention to detail is a hallmark of Knussen's scores. Dynamics, phrasing, articulation, rhythmic relationships, and, in his piano music, pedaling is all very scrupulously marked. He wants his music played the way he has conceived it. The instrumentation he uses for his orchestral works is imaginative and colorful. This same attention to individual lines and textures is evident in his compositions for solo piano. There are currently three solo piano pieces published by Faber Music Limited in London: Sonya's Lullaby, Op. 16, (1979), Variations for Piano, Op. 24, (1989) and Prayer Bell Sketch, iii Op. 29, (1998). Each of these pieces was composed in honor, by commission, or in memory of someone in his life. Sonya's Lullaby was written in celebration of the birth of his daughter, Variations for Piano was commissioned by the renowned pianist Peter Serkin and Prayer Bell Sketch is in memory of his friend and mentor Toru Takemitsu. A fourth solo piano piece has been completed, Ophelia's Last Dance, Op. 32, which was commissioned by the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in 2010, premiered and recorded by Kirill Gerstein on Myrios Classics. Through his prolific activities as both composer and conductor, Oliver Knussen is a major contributor to the ongoing tradition of British contemporary art music and a tireless advocate of new music.

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