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The Boston Globe

Music

Classical Notes

Oliver Knussen on BSO, Tanglewood, and his life’s work

Few living composers rival Oliver Knussen for commanding wide respect on the basis of a small number of works. The British composer has only about 35 compositions to his credit, but they are virtually unmatched for their union of craftsmanship and lucidity. Knussen turned 60 last year, and England’s Barbican concert hall marked the occasion with a mini-festival dedicated to his music that included his two operatic collaborations with Maurice Sendak: “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Higglety Pigglety Pop!”

Now Boston is getting its turn. Knussen’s ties to the BSO run through Tanglewood, where he has been a fellow, faculty member, composer in residence, and director of the Festival of Contemporary Music. He will conduct the BSO at Symphony Hall in two concerts that feature his own “Whitman Settings” and Violin Concerto, as well as Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and the 10th Symphony of Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky (Friday and Saturday). Two Knussen works are on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s concert titled “Olly, All Ye, In Come Free” (Sunday). At that performance, he will be presented with an honorary doctorate from New England Conservatory.

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