Knussen, Oliver. (1952–2018)
Two Pieces for Violoncello and Piano. 1. Passacaglia (1965) & 2. Ländler (1966-7) - Autograph Musical Manuscript
Unpublished autograph musical manuscript and inscribed facsimile full score, being the only known copy, of this work composed at the age of 13/14. The Violoncello Solo part, 2 pp notated in ink and pencil on 1 leaf (recto/verso) of 12- stave Academy music manuscript paper, approx. 222 mm x 305 mm, signed "Stuart Oliver Knussen" and titled and dated at the head "Passacaglia for 'Cello + Piano (1965)" and "July 8th-17th 1965 / revised March 1966." Passacaglia written in ink with annotations and additions in pencil across 41 measures; [Ländler] written in pencil across 81 measures. Together with a unique dyeline facsimile full score for Violoncello and Piano, folio, 385 x 280 mm, 12 pp. printed on 6 leaves, with the facsimile title and dedication to first leaf "to Antony Cooke / TWO PIECES for Violoncello and Piano. 1. Passacaglia (1965) & 2. Ländler (1966-7)," inscribed in ink on the verso "To Antony Cooke with best PERSONAL regards / S. O. Knussen." In very fine condition throughout.
The dedicatee of the present works, 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.