George Benjamin

Biography

Born in 1960, George Benjamin began composing at the age of seven. In 1976 he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study with Messiaen, after which he worked with Alexander Goehr at King's College Cambridge. 

Ringed by the Flat Horizon was played at the BBC Proms by the BBCSO under Mark Elder when he was just 20. The London Sinfonietta, under Simon Rattle, premiered At First Light two years later.  Antara was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the Pompidou centre in 1987 and Three Inventions was written for the 75th Salzburg Festival in 1995. The LSO under Boulez premiered Palimpsests in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, a season-long portrait at the Barbican. Over the last decade there have seen further multi-concert retrospectives of his work in Strasbourg, Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Lucerne, London, Aldeburgh, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Aix, Turin and Milan. 

His first operatic work Into the Little Hill, written with playwright Martin Crimp, was commissioned by the 2006 Festival d'Automne in Paris. Their second collaboration, Written on Skin, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence festival in July 2012 and has been scheduled by twenty international opera houses since then. He conducted the UK premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in March 2013; the production was filmed and broadcast by BBC television.

As a conductor he regularly appears with some of the world's leading orchestras, amongst them the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia and the Berlin Philharmonic; he has a particularly close relationship with the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. 

George Benjamin has conducted numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti, and his repertoire stretches from Schumann and Wagner to Abrahamsen, Knussen, and Murail. He has frequently performed and taught at the Tanglewood festival in the USA since his first appearance in 1999, and returns there regularly.

In 2012 the Southbank Centre presented a retrospective of his work as part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad. An honorary fellow of King’s College Cambridge, the Guildhall, the Royal College and the Royal Academy of Music, he was awarded a C.B.E. in 2010 and was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2011.

Since 2001 he has been the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King‘s College, London. His works are published by Faber Music and are recorded on Nimbus Records.


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George Benjamin

Written on Skin

CD release

George Benjamin’s Written on Skin out on DVD


A DVD of Written on Skin (filmed at the Royal Opera House) was released in January on the Opus Arte label and has inspired renewed claims that this is one of the greatest operas of the 21st Century.


‘George Benjamin’s opera is the most subtle, the most sophisticated, the most powerful musical drama of the modern era… Benjamin’s achievement is to make opera seem natural in the 21st century: Written on Skin is a vivid successor to Pelléas et Mélisande in its lyrical sensuousness and to Wozzeck in its cinematographic fluency and unsparing analysis of the human condition.’


Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 31 January 2014


‘The first truly great opera of the 21st century…the [its] communicative power is immense, with Benjamin’s highly coloured music, never forbiddingly complex, consistently moving in step with Martin Crimp’s tangy and chiselled words.’


The Times (Geoff Brown), 17 January 2014

Financial Times and The Times