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British Composer Oliver Knussen Dies Sunday At Age 66

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is an excerpt from "Symphony No. 3" by British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen. Knussen died earlier this week in Snape, England. He was 66 years old.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Knussen has been called one of the most influential contemporary classical figures. Raised in a musical family, he rose to fame at the age of 15 when he wrote his first symphony. He later conducted its premiere at the London Symphony Orchestra.

MARTIN: One of Knussen's most beloved compositions is a piece titled "Where The Wild Things Are," an opera based on the book by Maurice Sendak.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Max) He bites. M-A-X. Watch out. Watch out for the wild wolf king. Max.

KING: Knussen was not a swift composer. He missed deadlines at times. But his pieces were known for being intricate and detailed. Here he is speaking at the Library of Congress in 2015 about the unfolding of his painstaking process.

(SOUNDBIT EOF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OLIVER KNUSSEN: One of the great thrills of being a composer is when you hear a piece that you've written for the first time, and it talks back to you, and you remember what it was that made you want to do this in the first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REQUIEM, SONGS FOR SUE, OP. 33: W.H. AUDEN")

CLAIRE BOOTH: (Singing) ...But I told you so.

MARTIN: Oliver Knussen leaves behind a rich body of work and approximately 60 recordings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REQUIEM, SONGS FOR SUE, OP. 33: W.H. AUDEN")

BOOTH: (Singing) ...We have to pay. If I could tell you, I would let you know. If we should weep when clowns put on their show, if we should stumble when... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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