“Birmingham Contemporary Music Group are devastated to learn of the passing of our dearest friend and Artist-in-Association, Oliver Knussen. He was the head of our BCMG family, driving our artistic programming and inspiring musicians and audiences with his extraordinary musicianship. He was, quite simply, a force of nature in the best possible way; always creative, always playful, but with the highest standards and the best musical ears. We cannot begin to process the loss of this wonderful man to both the musical community and the wider world. We mourn his loss whilst celebrating his extraordinary, incomparable talent and humanity.”
Gillian Moore, Director of Music at Southbank Centre: “British music has just suffered a huge loss with the death of Oliver Knussen. Olly's musicianship was like a perfect jewel: the precision and insight of his conducting, the sheer beauty of the shapes and sounds he created in his compositions, the detailed thinking that went into the programmes he made with orchestras and ensembles. Musicians said that working with him was like doing the best kind of university course. For me personally, working closely with him for 8 years when, with Cathy Graham, we jointly ran the London Sinfonietta was a privilege and an education. He had impeccable high standards in everything he did which is why his musical output was relatively small – but each piece contains a world of invention and expression.”
"The Royal Philharmonic Society is deeply shocked and saddened at the passing of Oliver Knussen.
Quite simply a formidable and irreplaceable force in the contemporary music world, his work as composer, conductor, teacher and advocate profoundly influenced and impacted the lives of many. Knussen, whose catalogue included works such as Coursing, Where the Wild Things Are, O Hototogisu!, was awarded two RPS Music Awards for his achievements as both a conductor and composer, as well as RPS Honorary Membership for his services to music. He was also the recipient of the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music, the ISM Distinguished Musician Award, the Queen’s Medal for Music and, more recently, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music.
James Murphy, Chief Executive, says: 'Olly was such a big-hearted soul and a big-hearted composer. Any room was brightened by his presence and by his music. He leaves us a canon to treasure for the ages. Long may it resound. Our sympathies to his family and to all colleagues and musicians who cherished his generosity, friendship and the joy of making music with him.'
Rosie Johnson, our outgoing Executive Director who worked with Olly for over 35 years says: 'Olly leaves a huge hole. He is quite simply irreplaceable for his extraordinary musical insight, his generosity to the younger generation, his beautifully-crafted jewel-like works and his ability to get us all to listen with more detailed care and attention than we have ever done before'."
"All of us here at Britten Sinfonia are deeply saddened to hear of Oliver Knussen’s death. We’ve got to know him well, particularly over the past 10 years, performing his music and collaborating with him as a conductor and compositional coach to young emerging composers. Many of our key musicians – Nicholas Daniel, Jacqueline Shave, Huw Watkins to name but a few – were very close to him and regarded him, like so many fellow musicians, composers, administrators around the world, as a towering and influential figure and yet often avuncular, uncompromising, magnetic and hilarious. I have so many memories, not least his personal encouragement in the early days (over a pint or two of Adnams in Aldeburgh), and more recently in 2015 with two major portrait concerts he devised and conducted at the Barbican, with typically esoteric works by Berg, Stravinsky, Tippett and Mozart alongside his own glittering music – probably the finest performances I have heard the orchestra give. We will miss Olly terribly but treasure our time with him, and are comforted by knowing that his great musical influence and music will live on. – David Butcher, Chief Executive and Artistic Director"
Royal Academy of Music: 'The news of Olly Knussen’s death comes as a huge shock to all of us. He was a deeply loved teacher and friend. Olly’s years of regular visits here as Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music will remain amongst the most memorable and treasured for all of us who worked with him. We recall the concerts, the chats, the seminars, the recordings, the lessons and all the infectious badinage with a sense of true privilege. The loss to the students and the Academy is just part of the mourning - there can have been few conductor-composer-mentors in the history of British music, or international music for that matter, who encapsulated so vibrantly the value of high-level music-making alongside his tireless championing of new music in the modern era. His memory was off the scale, from the perfect tuning of the second bassoon recording Debussy in Cleveland to the exact texture of the dust jacket on the first Bruckner symphony recorded in Japan. We are grateful we had the opportunity to celebrate him last Wednesday [July 4, as photoed] when he received his honorary doctorate in ebullient spirits. Olly was an irreplaceable force of nature and we’ve all lost a very dear man.’ Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, CBE
"We learned with great sadness that the remarkable composer, conductor, and former London Sinfonietta Music Director Oliver Knussen passed away on Sunday 8 July, aged 66. Knussen was a vital part of the London Sinfonietta family. His Coursing was commissioned by the ensemble and premiered in 1979. He had worked with us as both a composer and conductor from the 1970s, and went on to become Music Director from 1998–2002. His operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higgelty Piggelty Pop! enjoyed huge success and toured widely throughout the UK, and his collective works have been performed by the London Sinfonietta hundreds of times. His musical output stands testament to his genius, whilst his guidance and mentoring of young musicians and composers has inspired a generation.
From all at the London Sinfonietta we send our thoughts and deepest sympathies to Olly’s family and friends."
Andrew Burke, London Sinfonietta Chief Executive & Artistic Director: "Olly once showed me his note book in which he carefully recorded, in very beautiful handwriting, every programme he had devised and conducted. For some reason I can’t remember, he had started at the back of the book and was working towards the front. It deeply impressed me, through this simple ritual, how personal and cherished was every stage of his own musical journey. Olly helped create, and then lead as Music Director, an era at the London Sinfonietta that is now a shining part of our history. His performances with us are some of the best we have ever given. And his music some of the most inventive and engaging we’ve ever played. He was a man of towering, uncompromising musical integrity. Everyone involved in the London Sinfonietta will miss him, and we send our thoughts and condolences to his friends and family."