The Ditson Fund has announced that the 2018 Ditson Conductor’s Award has been awarded posthumously to Oliver Knussen. The citation will be presented to his daughter Sonya Knussen this afternoon. It reads:
In 1940 the Alice M. Ditson Fund was established by Columbia University to make grants “for Fellowships, Public Hearings and Publication” of the work of talented musicians the Fund deems worthy of assistance. To encourage public performance of the music of gifted contemporary American composers, the Ditson Conductor’s Award was created in 1945. With the 2018 Award, Columbia University proudly adds Oliver Knussen to the roster of distinguished conductors so honored.
Maestro Knussen, you are one of music history’s most eminent and influential composer-conductors and one of the few artists in history that is equally world-class at both occupations. Your excellence in composition and conducting inform one another, resulting in an extraordinary, graceful, stylish, nuanced catalogue of compositions and conducting that, likewise, is elegant, refined, clean, clear, detailed and energized.
Your deep understanding of and empathy with a composer’s intentions, allied to the precision of your intellect, communicative personality and conducting, result in buoyant, luminous, and lucid performances, which resonate and crackle with radiant, crystalline detail, nuance, and spirit.
You have helped so many younger composers to forge their voice with a generous and unfailing advocacy across a wide range of contemporary music aesthetics and styles.
You were appointed CBE in 1994 and received the Queen’s Medal for Music 2015 and have been the recipient of many honours and awards, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Conductor Award in 2009. You have recorded prolifically and presided over numerous premieres.
Having served as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival (1983 – 98), Head of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center (1986 – 93), Principal Guest Conductor of the Hague Residentie Orchestra (1993 – 97), Music Director of the London Sinfonietta (1998 – 2002), and Artist-in-Association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (2009 – 2014), your impact on the musical community around the world is remarkable, and is a testament to your unconditional generosity and inspiring curiosity as a musician.
Columbia University therefore recognizes your splendid record of dedication and accomplishment by conferring on you the Ditson Conductor’s Award of 2018 for distinguished service to American music.
Established in 1945, the Ditson Conductor’s Award honors conductors who have a distinguished record of performing and championing contemporary American music.