Oliver Knussen was a huge influence on the contemporary British music scene - not only as composer, but as conductor, teacher, programmer and artistic director. Despite having started composing as a teenager, his oeuvre is relatively small – partly due to his busy schedule as a conductor (he must surely hold the record for premiere performances), but also because every bar he writes is measured against all the music that he knows and loves.

This new recording, to celebrate Olly's 60th birthday, is a chronological tour of his work, starting with the brooding orchestral Choral, and the poetic Autumnal for violin (both written in the 1970s), through to Ophelia's Last Dance from 2010. Requiem: Songs for Sue, was written following the death of his wife in 2003, and sets texts by poets who were important to them both – from Emily Dickinson's poem to her sister Sue, "Is it true, dear Sue?" to works by Antonio Machado, WH Auden and Rainer Maria Rilke – the latter translated by Olly's friend and musical collaborator Alexander Goehr. Also on this disc is a live recording of his Violin Concerto, performed at the BBC Proms by Leila Josefowicz.

Claire Booth soprano

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Leila Josefowicz violin

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Alexandra Wood violin

Huw Watkins piano

Ryan Wigglesworth piano

Oliver Knussen conductor

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NMC Recordings is an award-winning record label with charitable status. They believe that new music is a dynamic and engaging art-form and seek to inspire and challenge audiences.