Author Topic: George Benjamin (b. 1960)  (Read 3808 times)

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Offline Brewski

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George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« on: June 19, 2007, 11:57:10 AM »
Just got word that I'm going to see George Benjamin's Into the Little Hill, which is part of this year's Lincoln Center Festival.  Here's a rave from the Telegraph about the UK performance.

I've heard a couple of his works but nothing as ambitious as this.  Any other fans, comments? 

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Boris_G

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2007, 12:35:34 PM »
Sorry to see no one's replied to this. Has the performance happened yet, Bruce?

Offline Brewski

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2007, 12:41:34 PM »
No problem -- I'm going on Friday, July 27.  The piece sounds really creepy, and a friend at Lincoln Center said he'd heard the music and it stuck with him for days.  I'll be writing an article about it, but would be interested in other comments on Benjamin. 

Do you like his work, and/or have any recordings to recommend?  I know he's not exactly a household name, at least in the United States!  ;D

--Bruce
« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 12:45:55 PM by bhodges »
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Boris_G

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2007, 12:46:53 PM »
Alas, I only recall listening to 'Ringed by a Flat Horizon', which impressed me with its evocative colours created through some masterful orchestration. I'm sure I've heard other works of his, but that's now some years ago and 'Ringed' is the only one that's 'stuck', particularly the last movement. But I remember Benjamin quite fondly as he was one of those composers who made me realise that Britten wasn't quite as 'modern' as my mother seemed to think (much as I still love his music), and that there were whole musical worlds for which I didn't have a map at all - an exciting prospect, it seemed then.

lukeottevanger

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2007, 12:53:15 PM »
Yes, sorry, I didn't see this one before!

Put me down as a Benjamin fan - though I'm afraid I still prefer his earlier works, up to about the Three Inventions. At First Light and A Mind of Winter particularly are just unsurpassable IMO. Having just claimed a feeling of kinship with the 1972 LSSO on the Brian thread (because I was a member of the orchestra long time later) I must also say I feel some kind of a connection to Benjamin (and to Judith Weir and Tom Ades) simply because he/they all studied music at the same place as me, albeit a while earlier; also, Benjamin's Ringed by the Flat Horizon, which brought him to prominence, was first performed as the winner of a university composition competition which I also, sort of, won, or would have had my piece been for smaller forces!

But of course none of that is really important except to me. What I adore about those works of Benjamin's I mentioned is their stunning aural imagination - small forces in each creating the most awesome and precisely imagined sounds. Benjamin is influenced by the spectralists - he is close to Murail IIRC - and this shows in the consumate yet unusual aural effects in some of these works (such as the big E flat pedal+harmonics towards the end of At First Light) but he isn't committed to one technique; his music has great scope and imagination.

Boris, if you liked the last movement of Ringed by the Flat Horizon you will probably like the parallel section of At First Light, which is similar in concept but more subtly coloured and almost shockingly beautiful IMO - those chords melting into each other gorgeously!

Boris_G

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2007, 12:58:18 PM »
Hi Luke,

Thanks for the 'heads up' and recommendations; I'll certainly revisit Benjamin when my CD collection returns (my home's been turned upside down by workmen since a ceiling collapsed due to subsidence, and a lot of stuff has gone into storage). bws

Offline Brewski

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2007, 01:11:01 PM »
But I remember Benjamin quite fondly as he was one of those composers who made me realise that Britten wasn't quite as 'modern' as my mother seemed to think (much as I still love his music), and that there were whole musical worlds for which I didn't have a map at all - an exciting prospect, it seemed then.

Love this sentence!  And thank you both for the comments.  I like Murail a lot, so if he is one of Benjamin's influences (or spectralism in general) that bodes well.  I looked up a list of his complete works and recalled hearing the Relativity Rag (solo piano) and Flight (solo flute) but not the works you mention.  Sounds like I need to check out Ringed by the Flat Horizon ASAP.

--Bruce
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Offline Brewski

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2007, 04:34:18 AM »
Nice article in today's New York Times about Into the Little Hill.  Since that piece is only 40 minutes long, the program that starts tomorrow includes Viola, Viola (for two violas) and Three Miniatures for solo violin.

--Bruce
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Offline Brewski

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2007, 07:36:57 AM »
The Benjamin concert last night was pretty amazing.  Part of it was the Ensemble Modern's physical setup: the stage was covered with pieces of bark, and each musician had a "digital music stand" (no paper music, no turning pages).

The three pieces on the program were played as a set with no intermission, lasting about an hour.  First Viola, Viola (for two violas) and Three Miniatures (for violin) and then, Into the Little Hill.  Benjamin's new opera is based on The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with libretto by Martin Crimp, and is quite disturbing.  A town is overrun with rats, so the minister makes a deal with a mysterious stranger who offers to rid the town of them.  When the deed is done and the stranger comes to collect his fee, the minister says the rats "left of their own free will" and he has no intention of paying.  With that, the stranger begins playing "different music" and ultimately, the town awakes to find all of its children gone.

There are only two singers who play some four roles each: soprano Anu Komsi, whose voice can go alarmingly up into the stratosphere, and contralto Hilary Summers, whose gorgeous instrument is in dusky counterpoint.  (Summers is the contralto who is so marvelous on Boulez's recent Le marteau sans maître .)  Benjamin's music is transparent, sometimes using microtones, almost always allowing the voices to emerge without overpowering them.  The excellent libretto couldn't always be understood -- when the voices go very high it is almost impossible to discern words -- but most of the time the singers' diction was a model of precision. 

I do hope they record this.  Despite the disturbing story, the score is absolutely gorgeous and might make modern music lovers out of some who have given up on living composers.  Just to hear these two singers along with the Ensemble Modern (conducted by Franck Ollu) was a pleasure all on its own. 

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

sul G

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2009, 11:10:24 AM »
Sorry to bump this, but just saw this report on the London premiere of Into the Little Hill. A power cut meant that the performance took place in the bar! Link includes video footage of the performance!
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 03:11:48 PM by sul G »

Offline Brewski

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George Benjamin: "Written on Skin"
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2015, 05:58:58 AM »
Last night saw George Benjamin's Written on Skin (2012), and it is worth all the hype. Between the piece itself (both the music and Martin Crimp's libretto), the incredible singing (both principals and chorus), and the production and direction (Katie Mitchell), it is quite something.

I watched the DVD last year - the same production - but it is also available as audio-only.




--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

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Offline Cato

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Re: George Benjamin: "Written on Skin"
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2015, 06:14:23 AM »
Last night saw George Benjamin's Written on Skin (2012), and it is worth all the hype. Between the piece itself (both the music and Martin Crimp's libretto), the incredible singing (both principals and chorus), and the production and direction (Katie Mitchell), it is quite something.

I watched the DVD last year - the same production - but it is also available as audio-only.
--Bruce

A review appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal:

Quote
...An excellent concert performance two summers ago by the Tanglewood Music Center Fellows, conducted by the composer, revealed a startlingly original work. Staged, and sung by more experienced, older singers in New York, the piece came across as less romantic, more savage, and more personal and immediate in its raw sensuality and violence.

The vivid text, by the playwright Martin Crimp, is based on a 13th-century troubadour tale: A wealthy man, called the Protector, who is “addicted to purity and violence,” hires an artist, called the Boy, to create a book that celebrates his life and deeds. The Protector’s illiterate young wife, Agnès, awakened from her catatonic submission to her husband and aroused by the artist’s paintings, pulls the Boy into an affair and demands that he add their lovemaking to the book—literally “written on skin,” the vellum of medieval books....

See:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/written-on-skin-review-1439417190
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Online San Antone

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Re: George Benjamin: "Written on Skin"
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2015, 06:46:48 AM »
Last night saw George Benjamin's Written on Skin (2012), and it is worth all the hype. Between the piece itself (both the music and Martin Crimp's libretto), the incredible singing (both principals and chorus), and the production and direction (Katie Mitchell), it is quite something.

--Bruce

The 2012 production is on medici.tv recorded at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.  But the super-titles are so small as to be useless.  Still, I'll probably watch it and just try to make what they are singing.

Offline EigenUser

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Re: George Benjamin: "Written on Skin"
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2015, 09:06:01 AM »
The 2012 production is on medici.tv recorded at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.  But the super-titles are so small as to be useless.  Still, I'll probably watch it and just try to make what they are singing.
I just saw Into the Little Hill last night in NYC. Absolutely worth hearing if you haven't (it's on Spotify). I loved it.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

Offline Biffo

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2018, 07:31:38 AM »
Not much activity in this thread but, for the enthusiasts, George Benjamin is conducting the Berlin Philharmonic on Sunday, 9 September and the concert is being streamed live. Here are the details -

https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/concert/51892?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DCH%20Newsletter%2007092018%20-%20EN&utm_content=DCH%20Newsletter%2007092018

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Re: George Benjamin (b. 1960)
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2018, 07:51:09 AM »
Quite a beautiful program, I see. Looks very enticing.  :)
Ritter
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