Knussen, Oliver. (1952–2018)
"Skyray - Film Score" - Unpublished Autograph Musical Manuscript
Folio (ca. 360 x 260 mm.). Unbound. Autograph title page; 5 pp musical manuscript notated in ink and pencil on 3 leaves of 20- stave music manuscript paper. An unpublished manuscript, composed at the age of 14, primarily written in 2 different inks, with a handful of additions, alterations and cancellations in pencil. Title page inscribed "for my *friend TONY COOKE / SKYRAY - film score / by / Stuart Oliver Knussen / Short Score - complete / 14 Numbers!!" and at the foot "*Dear most illustrious, brilliant and implacable or malicious Joe (i.e. fiend) of a fiendish friend." Titled, dated, signed and notated further at the head of the first page of music: "SKYRAY music to the film," "12th March 1966," and "produced by J.A. Cooke assisted by S.O. Knussen and S. Hughes / Stuart Oliver Knussen." First leaf, recto and verso, including 82 measures of music in orchestral short score for parts one through seven, including timings: 1 ("1 Introduction 30""); 2 (T.E.P. 10""); 3 ("Shot New Theme 20"); 4 ("Jazz Cpt To Skyray Theme"); 5 ("Asteroid leaves SKYRAY 20""); 6 ("T.E.P."); 7 ("E.S.M. 50""). Second leaf, recto, including 28 measures of music in orchestral short score for parts eight through thirteen: 8 ("Climax 3"'); 9 ("Space Music. 25""); 10 ("Attack Preparations. 22 1/2 secs"); 11 ("Repeat Introduction Slower, but FF - Victorious Music. 30""); 12 ("Repeat Theme with 'Pop' group ad. lib"); 13 ("Humorous Endings 5""). Third leaf, recto and verso, titled additionally at the head "a puppet film produced by Tony Cooke, filmed in Cooke-process marionation, MARVELDRAMA / SKYRAY -film score / Piano Version (Short Score) and Orchestral Incidental Music," signed again "Stuart Oliver Knussen" and dated "begun March 12th 1966" and (in a different ink) "finished June 24th 1966 (in a new ink!!)" and including 22 measures of music scored in ink for Piano 1 and 2 and Drums, with additional instrumental annotations in pencil ("trb," "cello," "Trp"), for part 14 ("Theme and Skyray Lift-Off"). In very fine condition throughout.
The dedicatee and credited "producer" of the present work, Tony Cooke writes in an email that "Way back before time started, during my time in London, I was Oliver Knussen’s best friend. We spent our weekends hanging out together in music stores, attending rehearsals and concerts, and digging endless musical materials he and his dad had accumulated over the years. Ollie was very precocious, and, of course, went on to have a very illustrious career. I was present in the Royal Festival Hall when he conducted the premiere of his First Symphony with the LSO...He and I were mostly out of touch ever since we became adults, because I moved to the US, and Ollie’s life had already grown very complicated. We had a wonderful 2-hour phone conversation in the middle of the night a few years back, and I believe that was the last time we were in direct contact. He seemed the same as ever, but did share with me that he had some major health concerns. Of course, it was a blow to find out since that he had died in 2018—not so long after our phone conversation."
Oliver Knussen was a towering figure in contemporary music, as composer and conductor, teacher and artistic director and created a body of work characterised by its crystalline concision, complexity and richness. He studied composition with John Lambert in London and Gunther Schuller at Tanglewood and was just fifteen when he wrote his First Symphony (later conducting its premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra) whilst his Third Symphony (1973-9), dedicated to Michael Tilson Thomas, is now widely regarded as a twentieth-century classic. A number of dazzling ensemble works, including Ophelia Dances (a Koussevitzky centennial commission, 1975) and Coursing (1979), cemented Knussen’s position at the forefront of contemporary British music and many of his works have entered the standard International orchestral and soloist repertoire. In the 1980s, Knussen collaborated with Maurice Sendak on an operatic double-bill – Where the Wild Things Are (1979-83) and Higgelty Pigglety Pop! (1984-5, rev. 1999). Originally produced by Glyndebourne Festival Opera, these works have been performed extensively in both Europe and the USA and have been recorded on CD and video. As one of the foremost composer-conductors in the world, Knussen was renowned for his unfailing advocacy across a wide range of contemporary music.
Significant manuscripts of contemporary music very rarely appear for sale; most remain with the composers themselves or their publishers. This and the other two Knussen manuscripts offered here, one further of which is likewise unpublished and previously unrecorded, represent an extraordinary opportunity to acquire works from the very beginning of the career of one of the most important British composers of the last 50 years.