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Concert to Feature Works by Nemmers Winner Oliver Knussen

Composer Oliver Knussen, winner of the Northwestern University School of Music's $100,000 2006 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, will conduct part of a program of his own works and provide commentary.

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February 8, 2007 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Composer Oliver Knussen, winner of the Northwestern University School of Music's $100,000 2006 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, will conduct part of a program of his own works and provide commentary at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, on the University's Evanston campus. Ryan Nelson and Mallory Thompson also will conduct.

The concert is the culminating event of Knussen's first residency at the School of Music.

The program will include Knussen's “Fanfares for Tanglewood” (1986), “Two Organa” (1984), “Sonya's Lullaby” from “Triptych,” Part II (1978), “Three Little Fantasies” (1970, revised 1976), “Ophelia Dances” Book I (1975), “Prayer Bell Sketch” (1997) and “Songs Without Voices” (1992). The School of Music's Contemporary Music Ensemble, Symphonic Wind Ensemble and other students will perform.

Concert tickets are $6.50 for the general public; $4.50 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $3.50 for full-time students. For tickets, call (847) 467-4000.

The biennial Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition honors classical music composers of outstanding achievement who have significantly affected the field of composition. In addition to the $100,000 cash award, the prize includes a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of one of the winner's works and residencies at the School of Music. Knussen's next residencies at the School of Music are scheduled for the weeks of April 30, 2007, and Feb. 11 and May 5, 2008.

Born in Scotland, in 1952, Knussen has lived most of his life near London, where his father was for many years the principal double bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). It was with the LSO that Knussen made his conducting debut at age 16, leading his own "First Symphony" (1966-67).

He began composition lessons in England, later studying in the United States at Tanglewood Music Center in Boston with composer and conductor Gunther Schuller. It was during these early years that he composed a series of works which have been added to the repertory of ensembles all over the world: the Second Symphony (Margaret Grant Prize, Tanglewood 1971), “Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh” (1985), “Ocean de Terre” and “Ophelia Dances, Book 1” (Koussevitzky centennial commission, 1975.)

Knussen returned to the United Kingdom in 1975 and began producing a sequence of works that have placed him at the forefront of contemporary British music: "Trumpets" (1975), the “Triptych” (“Autumnal,” “Cantata” and “Sonya's Lullaby” 1975-77), “Coursing” (1979) and the “Third Symphony” (1973-79). The latter work has been performed in Europe and America under conductors that have included Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, André Previn, Simon Rattle, Esa Pekka-Salonen, Schuller and the composer himself.

During the 1980s Knussen devoted himself to the operatic double-bill written in collaboration with children's book author Maurice Sendak and commissioned by England's Glyndebourne Festival Opera: “Where the Wild Things Are” (1979-83) and “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1984-90). “Wild Things” has been performed at Glyndebourne, and in Amsterdam, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, Nuremburg and Munich.

Knussen was appointed an artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1983 and from 1986 to 1998 served as coordinator of contemporary music activities at the Tanglewood Music Center. He has appeared throughout the world as a guest conductor. In the United States he has led the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland orchestras, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras. His conducting activities in Great Britain include serving as Conductor Laureate of the London Sinfonietta and appearances with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the City of Birmingham Orchestra, BBC Symphony and the BBC Proms.

In 1995 Knussen signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon to record as a conductor a variety of 20th century music, including his own works.

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