Oliver Knussen with his award and Music Section chairman, Geoffrey Norris
A packed auditorium applauded vigorously when Oliver Knussen received his 2012 Outstanding Musician Award on stage at The Maltings in Snape on Saturday 9 June. He had just conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a challenging Aldeburgh Festival programme of Charles Ives, Alexander Goehr, Stravinsky and Berg. Goehr’s Marching to Carcassonne replaced Knussen’s new work for piano and orchestra that was due to have its première in this concert, and, as he remarked in a wryly witty acceptance speech, it was slightly embarrassing to receive an award on an evening when he had failed to meet a composition deadline. But the Outstanding Musician Award was not merely in acknowledgement of his work as a composer, but also about his championship of contemporary music as a conductor and lucid communicator, and about the potent influence he has had in encouraging and guiding composers of the younger generation.
As Knussen said, it was a happy coincidence that the award should be presented at the Aldeburgh Festival, with which he has been closely associated for many years. He has been a key participant and also its artistic director in recent times, and this year, celebrating his sixtieth birthday, he is Artist in Residence. He also valued the fact that he was sharing the evening with old friends and colleagues such as Alexander Goehr and Peter Serkin (pianist in the Goehr and Stravinsky works) and with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with which again he has had a long-standing relationship.
Oliver Knussen - REMARKABLE © The Critics' Circle
This year’s awards – the Outstanding Musician Award and the three for Exceptional Young Talent - are in the form of collages of the artists’ reviews. If you look at the photograph taken in the dressing room after the concert, it seems particularly apt that the most prominent word in Oliver Knussen’s award is REMARKABLE.
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