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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the classical music community in mourning the loss of Oliver Knussen, the British composer and conductor. He died earlier today at the age of 66.

Oliver Knussen in rehearsal with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Maida Vale studio 1 on March 30, 2012 (Photo by Mark Allan for the BBC)

Knussen made his debut conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on two weeks of subscription concerts, as follows:

March 12, 13, 14, and 17, 1998
STRAVINSKY Canon on a Russian Popular Tune
STRAVINSKY The Faun and the Shepherdess
Lucy Shelton, soprano
LIEBERSON Drala
KNUSSEN Horn Concerto
Gail Williams, horn
STRAVINSKY Suite from The Firebird

March 19, 20, 21, and 24, 1998
MUSSORGSKY/Stokowski A Night on Bare Mountain
KNUSSEN Songs and a Sea Interlude and The Wild Rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are
Rosemary Hardy, soprano
KNUSSEN The Way to Castle Yonder
MUSSORGSKY/Stokowski Pictures at an Exhibition

Knussen also led the Civic Orchestra during that residency, on March 15, 1998, with the following program:

KNUSSEN Flourish with Fireworks
RESPIGHI Fountains of Rome
LIEBERSON Fire from Five Great Elements
BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes

Most recently, Knussen was in Chicago to conduct the following works on a MusicNOW concert in Orchestra Hall on April 3, 2006:

GLANERT Secret Room: Chamber Sonata No. 3
THOMAS Carillon Sky (world premiere)
BEDFORD 5 Abstracts
KNUSSEN Requiem–Songs for Sue (world premiere)

That program also included performances of his A Fragment of Ophelia’s Last Dance and Secret Psalm for Solo Violin.

In December 1988, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented five performances of Knussen’s opera adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater at the Auditorium Theatre. While in Chicago for the production, the composer spoke with Studs Terkel, and the interview—part of the newly available Studs Terkel Radio Archive—can be heard here.

Most recently, Leila Josefowicz was soloist with the Orchestra in Knussen’s Violin Concerto on January 24, 25, 26, and 27, 2008, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. On MusicNOW, members of the Orchestra performed the composer’s Songs without Voices on March 16, 2001, and January 28, 2008; along with his Coursing (Etude 1) on March 10, 2008.

Numerous tributes have appeared at The Guardian (here and here), Faber Music, and the BBC, among many others.

Frederica von Stade

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade (recently in Chicago for performances of Ricky Ian Gordon‘s A Coffin in Egypt with Chicago Opera Theater)!

Von Stade appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall.

May 1 & 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 & 7, 2010
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Berlioz album cover

The 1981 interpretation of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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