Musicians in shock at the death of Olly Knussen

Musicians in shock at the death of Olly Knussen


norman lebrecht

July 09, 2018

A selection of tributes:

Mathias Pintscher: We lost one of the greatest musicians today
one of the finest musicians I had the honor to know and spend time with 
Your wit and inspiration will be deeply missed
I have no words”


  • Hilary says:

    The same lifespan as the composer he did so much to promote: Toru Takemitsu.
    Of the many Knussen conducted performances I’ve attended, a few really stand out in the memory:
    Stockhausen: Jubilee (BBC Proms), Birtwistle: CAMP( BBC proms, and easlily eclipses the commercial recording under Elgar Howarth), and Copland’s Connotations from the Carter festival at the Barbican. This piece runs the risk of seeming a bit dry, but it had a spring in its step under Knussen’s alert direction.

  • Andrey Boreyko says:

    What’s the awful news…
    2018 is continue to collect a sad harvest..
    Great musiacians are leaving us.
    Let’s remember all of them.

  • John Rook says:

    Honestly, when will it stop? Ollie was already on the staff when I was at the RCM Junior Department in the late 1970’s. He must have been in his mid-twenties at best. All my references are shedding this mortal coil, it’s horrific.

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    Ollie Knussen was an inspiring man and musician. I shall never forget the first time I saw him, conducting his First Symphony with the LSO in 1968, age 16, at the Royal Festival Hall. I was sitting in the choir seats immediately behind his father, Stuart, who was principal double bass. I can’t remember if Ollie was actually in short trousers, but he looked as if he ought to have been! But after all the indulgent smiles at this youthful and energetic boy on the rostrum, we were soon left in no doubt that here was a genuine composer and, as it happened, an able conductor at what was probably his first experience of a full orchestra. He was a natural – as Steven Isserlis says, ‘he “got” it immediately’. His early death saddens me profoundly.

  • Anthony Boatman says:

    I had the pleasure of working with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota in the mid-80’s when we presented the U.S. premiere of “Where the Wild Things Are” together with the Minnesota Opera. Pride of place in my office is the poster from those performances, autographed by Knussen, Maurice Sendak & Pinchas Zukerman (our conductor at the time). We did 8 performances for schoolchildren that week and the kids, well, went wild!!

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    This is really true??? Terrible, horific.
    R.I.P. Maestro.

  • Gerald Newson says:

    I recall as a young Double Bass player with the London Symphony Orchestra in about 1969 going to Daytona Beach Florida USA for their Music Festival which was our residency for a month and Oliver, who had earlier in the year premiered his First Symphony at the Festival Hall in London with us , gave a first USA performance .
    After the final morning rehearsal there was an auction of his original score in order to help Daytona in their funding of the Festival . During the bidding the score reached several thousand dollars and the Festival was delighted with the outcome .
    So, if anyone is looking for the original manuscript and it has not left Daytona Beach it could be now lying in a desk or attic in a small house in Florida .
    I would be interested to hear of its location and ownership today as it would make an interesting detective story in its own right of its whereabouts and last 50 year journey .

  • Deborah Mawer says:

    Re: Mr Isserlis’ comment, that would have been quite a night in 1989:

    Oliver Knussen Flourish with Fireworks, Op 22

    Claude Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
    Minna Keal Symphony, Op 3 First concert performance of complete work
    John Tavener The Protecting Veil World premiere
    Modest Mussorgsky Intermezzo in modo classico (orchestral version)
    Igor Stravinsky Chant du rossignol

  • Rob says:

    His music was totally unmemorable and he failed to come up with a decent tune.

    • Liam says:

      Not to be contrary, but hardly a day goes by without melodic fragments of Olly’s music playing in my brain — ‘Flourish’, the Two Organa, Higglety, the Horn Concerto, the Aria from the Violin Concerto, Ophelia’s Last Dance, The Whitman Settings — all of them memorable, tuneful, masterfully executed and sheerly musical. I’ll miss Olly; he was a real hero for me, growing up.