Audio clip: London Sinfonietta SINF12004
Olive Knussen is one of my all time favorite composers, right up there with, for example, Mahler and Debussy and Stravinsky. I studied with Olly for three summers at Tanglewood, quietly soaking in all his great teaching; he is a wonderful composer, musician, and role model. I admire him deeply.
Based on the Wallace Stevens poem entitled Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour, Light the First Light of Evening is an energetic work. It's colorful; purple and red flaring high register metallic percussion, harp and 2 pianos (or celeste) resonate blazing crystal fires on the upper horizon of the music. The piccolo trumpet is featured and the violin serves as the golden thread of sound. These two minutes of music emulate the reaction one gets when striking five or six matches — the initial spark and then the progressive flaring of bright blue energy and light. The work ends with one final "ZING" as if one glowing, sparkling flare then lights the first light of evening.
Augusta Read Thomas