O Hototogisu! is presented here as a typeset score with two facsimile pages from the composer’s manuscript.
This exquisite ‘fragment of a Japonisme’ – premiered in 2017 and conceived as a kind of double concerto for soprano, flute and ensemble of 23 players – proved to be Oliver Knussen’s final work. The 8-minute piece couches seven exquisite haiku settings in richly evocative music which incorporates signals from Japanese theatre (particularly Kabuki). It concerns the Hototogisu (or Lesser Cuckoo), a bird widely invoked in Japanese haiku poetry of the 17th-19th centuries, where the poet listens for its arrival from the mountains both as a harbinger of summer and a voice from the land of the dead.