Born in Glasgow in 1952, Knussen grew up near London, where his father was principal double bass of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was with the LSO that he made his debut in April 1968, conducting his First Symphony in London and in Carnegie Hall, New York. In 1970 he was awarded the first of three fellowships to Tanglewood, where he studied with Gunther Schuller. During this time he completed several works which were subsequently widely performed on both sides of the Atlantic and established his early reputation. In 1975 Knussen returned permanently to the UK.
From 1983 till 1998, Knussen was an Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival, and also held posts at the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In 1992, with Colin Matthews, he established the Contemporary Composition and Performance courses at the Britten-Pears School in Snape.
After many years of close collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen became Music Director in 1998, and in 2002 was made Conductor Laureate. In 2006 he was appointed Artist in Association with the BCMG. Among his many awards are Honorary Memberships of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal Philharmonic Society, an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the 2004 Association of British Orchestras Award. In 2006 he was named the second recipient of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, USA.
He has guest-conducted in many parts of the world, including in the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. As a conductor he has recorded more than thirty CDs of contemporary music, several of which have won international awards - these include Robin Holloway's Concerto for Orchestra No.2, which won NMC's first Gramophone Award, and Maxwell Davies' opera Taverner.
He became a CBE in the 1994 Birthday Honours.
The British countertenor Michael Chance studied English at King's College, Cambridge where he was also a choral scholar. He is in equal demand as an opera, concert, recital and recording artist. Concerts and recitals have taken him to the Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Musikverein in Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonie, as well as tours in Japan, Europe and United States. His operatic roles include Orfeo (Gluck), Oberon, Giasone, Giustino, Ottone, Athamas, Andronico, and Apollo (Britten's Death in Venice). He has had roles written specially for him by Sir Harrison Birtwistle (The Second Mrs Kong) and Judith Weir (A night at the Chinese Opera). Operatic engagements have taken him to Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Glyndebourne, La Scala Milan and Covent Garden. His repertoire ranges from the baroque to contemporary, including many world premieres (Bennett, Goehr, Tavener, Costello) and he has recorded extensively, receiving a Grammy award for his participation in Handel's Semele.
Composers like Richard Rodney Bennett, Alexander Goehr, Tan Dun, Anthony Powers, John Tavener, and Elvis Costello have all written specifically for him, while Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Judith Weir have both created tailor-made operatic roles. He sings regularly with the viol consort Fretwork and also performs in oratorio. Michael Chance is a visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music, and was awarded a CBE in the 2009 New Year Honours list.
- 01. Sing, Ariel: Sing, Ariel, sing4'23"
- 02. Sing, Ariel: He ceast, and then gan4'14"
- 03. Sing, Ariel: Fughetta4'42"
- 04. Sing, Ariel: Tell her that she sheds1'54"
- 05. Sing, Ariel: Such a sacred and home-felt delight1'28"
- 06. Sing, Ariel: Rose-cheeked Laura, come1'30"
- 07. Sing, Ariel: (Echo) Such sober certainty1'19"
- 08. Sing, Ariel: O you are well-tun'd now!1'53"
- 09. Sing, Ariel: Old lecher with a love on every wind2'29"
- 10. Sing, Ariel: Across the street a tenor whine3'27"
- 11. Sing, Ariel: With woeful measures wan Despair3'42"
- 12. Sing, Ariel: Thus I, faltering forward2'28"
- 13. Sing, Ariel: Postlude2'15"
- 14. Sing, Ariel: Rebuke the raging heart2'55"
- 15. Sing, Ariel: There is so much to celebrate1'20"
- 16. Sing, Ariel: Instrumental1'16"
- 17. Sing, Ariel: I see them all, so excellently fair!1'13"
- 18. Sing, Ariel: My unground grain1'17"
- 19. Sing, Ariel: The time of year3'52"
- 20. Sing, Ariel: Unanxious one, sing6'22"
- 21. Sing, Ariel: I squeezed up the last stair5'41"
- 22. Sing, Ariel: Thou has neither youth nor age5'56"
- 23. Sing, Ariel: The palm at the end of the mind3'13"
- 24. Sing, Ariel: (Echo) Without human meaning1'04"
- 25. Sing, Ariel: All's in deep sleep and night1'05"
- 26. Sing, Ariel: The rock of autumn, glittering1'29"
- 27. Sing, Ariel: Brilliantly, lightly2'51"
- 28. The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid13'30"
- 01. The Death of Moses: 1 Let me sing of the tears1'01"
- 02. The Death of Moses: 2 Man's fears are the fires2'49"
- 03. The Death of Moses: 3 To the man who4'08"
- 04. The Death of Moses: 4 Today is now my last5'06"
- 05. The Death of Moses: 5 And there he saw4'57"
- 06. The Death of Moses: 6 I will not die!3'33"
- 07. The Death of Moses: 7 O Earth!6'43"
- 08. The Death of Moses: 8 All creatures were formed4'09"
- 09. The Death of Moses: 9 But then when Moses9'59"
- 10. The Death of Moses: 10 But others tell it3'15"
- 11. The Death of Moses: 11 Nor did his mother9'41"
Sing, Ariel sets a patchwork of texts, ranging from Milton to Wallace Stevens, for 3 solo sopranos; it is coupled with The Death of Moses, a vast choral exploration of Hebrew myth.
Lucy Shelton principal soprano
Sarah Leonard, Eileen Hulse sopranos
Oliver Knussen conductor
The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid
Lucy Shelton soprano
The Death of Moses
Michael Chance countertenor
Stephen Richardson baritone
Sarah Leonard soprano
Gautam Rangarajan tenor
Paul Robinson bass
Sawston Village College Chamber Choir / Jan MacLeod conductor
Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus / Lynette Levitt solo
Stephen Cleobury conductor
Originally released on Unicorn-Kanchana in 1993/4.
'Sing Ariel is a marvellous song cycle for soprano. There's a vast range of texture and mood, often expressed through the simplest means.'
BBC Music Magazine
Sing Ariel/ Mouse Metamorphosed:
Recording date: 9-10 December 1991
Recording venue: All Saints Church, Petersham
Engineer: Tryggvi Tryggvason
Producer: Oliver Knussen
The Death of Moses:
Recording date: 10-11 January 1993
Recording venue: King's College Chapel, Cambridge
Engineers: Tryggvi Tryggvason, Geoff Miles
Producer: Tryggvi Tryggvason
Editing & mastering: Marian Tryggvason
Cover image: Photo: Malcolm Crowthers
(P) 1991 & 1993 Unicorn-Kanchana Records