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<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    MUSSORGSKIAN GIANT


This month, just back from conducting the London Sinfonietta on its Swiss residency in Basle, he conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra -- till recently Sir Simon Rattle's fiefdom and now directed by Sakari Oramo -- in three pretty mouth-watering concerts in Birmingham's Symphony Hall and at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival : his own The Way to Castle Yonder (an extract from Higglety Pigglety Pop!) and Whitman Settings (with soprano Lisa Saffer); Berg's Three Fragments from Wozzeck; and Bartók's suite The Miraculous Mandarin (substituted at Huddersfield with the Gran Duo by the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, currently being championed by the Sinfonietta).

Knussen's response to music has remained, he says, 'pretty much unchanged since I was a kid : it's what I breathe. I can't imagine it not being there.' He was a teenage celebrity at fifteen, having composed his first symphony, in which he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra (of which his father, Stuart Knussen, was the superb Principal Double Bassist in the Sixties; his grandfather was principal cellist of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester). 'Nobody plays it now..' he says, 'and frankly I wouldn't want to hear it played. It sounded a bit like a tonal American symphony written by a Russian who knows his Britten. But I'm quite proud I had the tenacity to complete a half-hour piece when I was fourteen ... because I find that very hard now!'

With his commitment to the London Sinfonietta on top of everything else, conducting, he says 'occupies a lot of my time these days. I still think it's fundamentally my job as a conductor to do my contemporaries, so I tend to concentrate my energies on twentieth century music, i.e. modern or contemporary works -- rather than standard eighteenth and nineteenth century repertory, which I see as outside my remit. And obviously I tend to give priority in programming to music I care about as a composer.'

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Copyright © 17 November 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK






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