Oliver Knussen (Mark Allan / BBC)

Oliver Knussen CBE (1952 - 2018)

09 Jul 2018

Beloved composer-conductor Oliver Knussen has died aged 66

The Royal Philharmonic Society is deeply shocked and saddened at the passing of Oliver Knussen.

Quite simply a formidable and irreplaceable force in the contemporary music world, his work as composer, conductor, teacher and advocate profoundly influenced and impacted the lives of many. Knussen, whose catalogue included works such as "Coursing", "Where the Wild Things Are", "O Hototogisu!", was awarded two RPS Music Awards for his achievements as both a conductor and composer, as well as RPS Honorary Membership for his services to music. He was also the recipient of the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music, the ISM Distinguished Musician Award, the Queen’s Medal for Music and, more recently, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music.

James Murphy, Chief Executive, says:

"Olly was such a big-hearted soul and a big-hearted composer. Any room was brightened by his presence and by his music. He leaves us a canon to treasure for the ages. Long may it resound. Our sympathies to his family and to all colleagues and musicians who cherished his generosity, friendship and the joy of making music with him."

Rosie Johnson, our outgoing Executive Director who worked with Olly for over 35 years says:

"Olly leaves a huge hole. He is quite simply irreplaceable for his extraordinary musical insight, his generosity to the younger generation, his beautifully-crafted jewel-like works and his ability to get us all to listen with more detailed care and attention than we have ever done before."


Humphrey Burton, first head of Music and Arts, BBC; founder/presenter of Young Musician of the Year and joint founder of the RPS Music Awards in 1989.


The RPS is over 200 years old, founded in 1813 ‘to promote the performance, in the most perfect manner possible, of the best and most approved instrumental music'.