Oliver Knussen, British Composer of Where the Wild Things Are, Awarded $100K Nemmers Prize
From OperaNewsOnline - April 24, 2006
Oliver Knussen, the British composer and conductor who wrote the operatic adaptations of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! as part of a double bill, has been awarded the 2006 Nemmers Composition Prize by the Northwestern University School of Music. The Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, which carries with it a purse of $100,000, is given biennially to "classical music composers of outstanding achievement who have significantly affected the field of composition," according to the school. In 2004, the inaugural prize was awarded to American composer John Adams. The selection committee behind the prize cited Knussen for "his uniquely focused, vibrantly varied music and his total embrace — as a profoundly influential composer, conductor and educator — of today's musical culture." In addition to the monetary prize, Knussen will have one of his works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during its 20007-08 season. The prize also carries a residency at Northwestern University's School of Music. "I am thrilled to be named recipient of the second Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, and would like to thank all concerned for this great and generous honor," Knussen said in a press release issued today. "I look forward particularly to developing a fruitful collaboration with the students and faculty of the Northwestern University School of Music, which I have visited in the past with pleasure, and to broadening my acquaintance with the extraordinary cultural resources of the Chicago area — a place which was for many years, my maternal family's home." Born in Glasgow in 1952, Knussen's father was the principal double bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra, the same organization with which he would make his conducting debut at the age of 16, leading his own "First Symphony." Later studies at Tanglewood fostered the creation of several works, including his Second Symphony, "Hums and Songs of Winnie-the-Pooh," "Océan de Terre" and "Ophelia Dances, Book 1," which have found homes in the repertories of orchestras around the world. During the mid-'70s, Knussen returned to the United Kingdom while the composition of additional works, including "Trumpets," "Coursing" and his "Third Symphony," solidified his position as one of the international forerunners of modern symphonic composition. His "Third Symphony," composed from 1973-79, has received more than 70 performances in Europe and America under conductors including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, André Previn, Simon Rattle, Esa Pekka-Salonen and Gunther Schuller. The double-bill resulting from Knussen's collaboration with Sendak, originally commissioned by the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, has also been performed on stages in Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Nuremburg, Munich and New York City. In 1983, Knussen was appointed to the artistic directorship of the Aldeburgh Festival, and from 1986 to 1998 served as the coordinator of contemporary music activities at the Tanglewood Music Center. From 1990-92 he held the Elise L. Stoeger Composer's Chair with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In addition 1994 saw his honorary acceptance into the American Academy of Arts and Letters made him an honorary member.
Oliver Knussen Wins $100,000 Composition Prize
By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - 25 Apr 2006
Northwestern University announced yesterday that Oliver Knussen is the 2006 winner of the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition.
The biennial award (which John Adams won in 2004) honors composers "who have significantly affected the field of composition." Knussen was praised by the anonymous, three-member selection committee for his "uniquely focused, vibrantly varied music and his total embrace—as a profoundly influential composer, conductor, and educator—of today's musical culture."
One of Knussen's works will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 2007-08 season; he will also visit Chicago for a residency at Northwestern's School of Music.
Knussen was born in Glasgow in 1952. His father was principal double bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra, with which Knussen made his conducting debut at age 16, leading his own First Symphony. He studied composition with John Lambert, and later at Tanglewood Music Center with Gunther Schuller. His talent was recognized early in such youthful works as the Second Symphony, awarded the Margaret Grant Prize in 1971, and Ophelia Dances, Book 1, the 1975 Koussevitzky centennial commission.
Works composed after returning to the U.K. in 1975 include the Third Symphony, which has been led by conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, André Previn, Simon Rattle, Esa Pekka-Salonen, and the composer himself. During the 1980s, Knussen collaborated with children's-book author Maurice Sendak on the operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop.
Knussen is a frequent guest conductor, appearing with the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. In the U.K., he served as conductor laureate of the London Sinfonietta, and has led the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the London Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony, and the City of Birmingham Orchestra.
In 1995 Knussen signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon to conduct 20th-century music, including his own works.