Oliver Knussen (born June 12, 1952 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a UK composer and conductor.
He began composing at about the age of six – but it was an ITV programme about his father's work with the London Symphony Orchestra that prompted the commissioning for his first symphony (1966-1967). Aged 15, Knussen stepped in to conduct his symphony's première at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 7 April 1968 after István Kertész fell ill. After that debut, Daniel Barenboim asked him to conduct the work's first two movements in New York a week later. In this work and his Concerto for Orchestra (1968-1970), he had quickly and fluently absorbed the influences of composers Benjamin Britten and Alban Berg as well as many mid-century (largely American) symphonists, whilst displaying an unusual flair for pacing and orchestration. It was as early as the Second Symphony (1970-1971), in the words of Julian Anderson, that "Knussen's compositional personality abruptly appeared, fully formed".
Knussen has been Principal Guest Conductor of The Hague's Het Residentie Orkest (Residentie Orchestra) between 1992 and 1996, the Aldeburgh Festival's co-Artistic Director between 1983 and 1998 and the London Sinfonietta's Music Director between 1998 and 2002 – and is now that ensemble's Conductor Laureate.
Since September 2006, Knussen has been Artist-in-Association to the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, a contemporary chamber ensemble.
His major works from the 1980s are his two "children's operas", Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!, both libretti by Maurice Sendak – and based on Sendak's own eponymous children's books.
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