Main content

Oliver Knussen

Tom Service in conversation with the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen.

Tom Service talks to the conductor and composer Oliver Knussen at his home in Suffolk. First broadcast in January 2015.

Oliver Knussen (1952-2018) was one of the most widely respected figures in today's classical music world, As a composer, his finely crafted and powerful scores include the operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!, symphonies, concertos for horn and violin, and vocal works including Songs for Sue, written as a requiem for his former wife. Knussen was also a masterful conductor and champion of new music, and an inspirational teacher to younger composers.

In this extended interview, recorded at his Suffolk home in 2015, Knussen talks frankly to Tom about the transformative experiences of his teenage years, when he wrote and conducted his since-withdrawn Symphony No.1 and received commendations from Bernstein, Copland and Britten among others. He discusses his subsequent struggles with self-criticism and his years studying at the Tanglewood Summer School. He also explains the influence of Leopold Stokowski on his conducting, Berg, Stravinsky and Ravel on his music and how he views the current and future health of new classical music..

Available now

45 minutes

Oliver Knussen

Oliver Knussen

This week’s edition of Music Matters is another in our series of in-depth conversations with today’s leading musicians. Tom Service meets the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen at his home in Suffolk.

Born in 1952, Oliver Knussen is one of the most widely respected figures in classical music today. As a composer, his finely crafted and powerful scores include the operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!, symphonies, concertos for horn and violin, and vocal works including Songs for Sue, written as a requiem for his former wife. Knussen is in demand as a masterful conductor and champion of new music and is currently Artist-in-Association with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. An inspirational teacher to younger composers, he was also recently appointed as the ’Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music' at the Royal Academy of Music.

Olly, as he’s known, talks frankly to Tom about the transformative experiences of his teenage years, when he wrote and conducted his since-withdrawn Symphony No.1 and received commendations from Bernstein, Copland and Britten among others. He discusses his subsequent struggles with self-criticism and his years studying at the Tanglewood Summer School. He also talks about the influence of Leopold Stokowski on his conducting, Berg, Stravinsky and Ravel on his music and how he views the current and future health of new classical music.

More information: Oliver Knussen

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Tom Service
Interviewed Guest Oliver Knussen

Broadcasts

Featured in...

Knock on wood – six stunning wooden concert halls around the world

Steel and concrete can't beat good old wood to produce the best sounds for music.

The evolution of video game music

Tom Service traces the rise of an exciting new genre, from bleeps to responsive scores.

Why music can literally make us lose track of time

Try our psychoacoustic experiment to see how tempo can affect your timekeeping abilities.

Podcast