Oliver Cox is a composer and percussionist.
He has performed in many of the world’s finest concert halls and recital venues as both concerto soloist and chamber musician, primarily with his percussion duo, O Duo, which he co-founded in 2000 at the Royal College of Music, London.
O Duo have had a huge impact on the UK music scene, performing three times at the BBC Proms, giving several recitals at the Wigmore Hall, starring as concerto soloists in the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 80th Birthday celebration concert at the Barbican Hall in London, and broadcasting live on both national TV and Radio several times. In addition, they have released two critically acclaimed discs of percussion duo music and have given countless other performances around the globe.
‘The duo’s wonderful rapport, both with each other and with their audiences, together with their extraordinary virtuosity, versatility and physical prowess, adds up to a visual and artistic feast that is exhilarating and utterly irresistible’ (Oxford Mail)
Inspiring the next generation of musicians has always been high on Oliver’s agenda and he has been heavily involved in several music education programs over the years. From 2008 – 2018, Oliver was the co-artistic director of Children’s Classic Concerts (CCC), Scotland’s best loved series of family concerts, and during his 10 year tenure, the organisation went from strength to strength, diversifying their concert and workshop programme, expanding their reach across Scotland as well as forging a new and highly successful partnership with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In addition, Oliver has led workshops with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and many others.
He has held several teaching posts, most recently Visiting Professor of Percussion at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, specialising in Solo Performance, Chamber Music and Latin Percussion.
Oliver’s compositions and arrangements have featured in many of his performances with both O Duo and Children’s Classic Concerts, and from November 2018 he is stepping back from both of these projects in order to focus fully on his creative path as a composer.
In October 2018, he arranged his piece ‘We Can Fly’ for a large-scale, multi-media collaboration between CCC, the RSNO, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and Drake Music Scotland for two performances at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.
Currently, he is working on two contrasting series of pieces: a set of short minimalist piano works, entitled ‘Hope’, and a series of classically-influenced electronic pieces, named ‘Cosmic Dreamings of my Heart’.
"Exhilarating ... a glistening constellation of timbres, at times hushed and haunting, at others athletically spry."
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph 2015
"Phenomenal artistry...Brimming with style and panache."
The Daily Telegraph
"Brilliant….one of the Fringe’s small gems"
"Startling…cheeky, but enchanting"
St Magnus Festival 2013
Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox may look, as they jokingly describe themselves, like ‘a pair of scruffy blokes playing the xylophones’, but they’re not. For one thing, they play a large array of tuned and untuned percussion. And in novel ways too - they stamp their feet, they beat the floor, bow instruments, yell and leap. They approach their work with imagination, and they are born performers. I’ve never seen volunteer hands go up so quickly for audience participation. Who could resist having a go at something that sounds so exciting and looks so much fun?
But don’t be fooled by their relaxed style, and all that charming chat about their mums and the John Lewis haberdashery department. Gunnell and Cox are fantastic musicians, trained to the highest level, bursting with talent. The sensitivity and musicianship with which they play a Bach Prelude and Fugue on, of all things, a marimba, gives them away. They moved through free improvised jazz on the vibraphone, before ending with a powerful performance of Minoru Miki’s Marimba Spiritual, a reflection on acute famine in Africa. A programme that proved O Duo are more than just great entertainment
Rosenna East. The Herald. July 2013
‘Going for Gold’, Children’s Classic Concerts; Caird Hall, Dundee - May 2014
These shows would not be the same without some continuity, and Olly and Owen proved to be link men extraordinaire. No strangers to Children’s Classic Concerts, their rapport with the audience was instantaneous, their enthusiasm infectious. I liked their take on ET, a film that apparently inspired Sir Chris Hoy to start cycling, but Olly’s We Can Fly, specially composed for the Games and given only its second airing at the concert, was even more memorable.
Gerry Fraser, Dundee Courier
The Daily Telegraph 10 February 2007 ‘CD of the Week’
In live concerts, part of the fun of watching Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox – the pair who make up the percussion ensemble O Duo – is that they are such nifty movers. The footwork is as spry as Fred Astaire's, the choreography as fluent as in any ballet. They dart from instrument to instrument in their arsenal of things to hit and slap, changing places with split-second timing. They have got the visual athleticism of their performances down to a fine art.
If that element is absent from this purely audio disc, you can certainly appreciate O Duo's virtuosity, their exploratory range of works and their willingness to give us some show-stopping arrangements in among modern pieces written specifically for percussion. So, alongside Minoru Miki's mesmerising Marimba Spiritual and Stephen McNeff's witty study of professional coffee-making in Baristas, there is a brilliant transcription of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, as well as versions of Mendelssohn, Poulenc and Bach preludes and fugues.
So stylish are O Duo's performances, so kaleidoscopic the colours and so invigorating the rhythms, you feel that any of these composers would happily have scored their pieces for percussion if only there had been an ensemble of O Duo's calibre around to play them.
The Daily Telegraph Sony BMG 88697027202 February 2007
‘Short, snappy and infectious artistry’
Bounding on to the platform at the start of this programme, Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell launched headlong into a short, snappy rhythmic extravaganza called Bongo Fury, a rousing curtain-raiser that they wrote last year. O Duo has been the toast of recent Edinburgh Festivals, and it is easy to see why. The style is infectious, and the pair can paper over protracted platform changes with perky patter. But there is phenomenal artistry underneath it all
The Daily Telegraph Wigmore Hall February 2006
‘Crash, bang, wallop’
Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell, O Duo percussion, gave a superb lunchtime recital. If there had been an interval I would have been tempted to go out into the streets of Newbury to persuade perfect strangers to come in to hear them. They played an impressive range of instruments in a variety of styles and kept the audience enthralled, primarily with their brilliant playing but also with the informative and friendly introductions to the pieces
Newbury Weekly News Newbury Spring Festival May 2006
This was a stunning performance [Bartok Sonata], thrilling and moving in the extreme
Musical Opinion Park Lane Group Purcell Room January 2006
O Duo – percussionists Oliver Cox & Owen Gunnell – produced a short set that would go down a storm at the Royal Variety Performance….Hugely entertaining and very enjoyably musical
Classical Source QEH July 2005
Michael Zev Gordon, enjoyed a subtle performance of his Resolution 2004 for two percussion: the sticks, hammers and violin bows of O Duo’s Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell created slow-motion choreography as they conjured cycles of agitation and calm from two vibraphones, gongs and cymbals….Three classics of the piano/percussion repertoire provided welcome ballast: the premiere of O Duo’s own entirely magical arrangement of three of Ligeti’s piano sketches; a virtuoso performance of Berio’s hauntingly eloquent 1973 ballet score, Linea; and a performance of Bartok’s 1934 Sonata for two pianos and percussion
The Times PLG Young Artists Purcell Room January 2006