George Benjamin

(1960 - )


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.

When he was only 20 years old, Ringed by the Flat Horizon was played at the BBC Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder. The London Sinfonietta, under Sir 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 for chamber orchestra was written for the 75th Salzburg Festival in 1995. The London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez premiered Palimpsests in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, a season-long portrait which included the first performance of Shadowlines by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. More recent celebrations of Benjamin’s work have taken place at the Southbank Centre in 2012 (as part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad) and at the Barbican in 2016, and the last decade has seen multi-concert retrospectives in Paris, Lucerne, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Turin, Milan, Aldeburgh, Toronto, Dortmund and New York.

Benjamin’s first operatic work Into the Little Hill, written with playwright Martin Crimp, was commissioned in 2006 by the Festival d'Automne in Paris. Their second collaboration, Written on Skin, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence festival in July 2012 has since been scheduled by 20 international opera houses, winning as many international awards. He conducted the UK premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in March 2013; the production was filmed and broadcast by BBC television and was revived in January 2017. The world premiere of Lessons in Love and Violence, a new opera with Martin Crimp, is scheduled for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 10 May 2018.

As a conductor Benjamin has a broad repertoire  - ranging from Mozart and Schumann to Knussen, Murail and Abrahamsen -  and has conducted numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti.  He regularly works with some of the world's leading orchestras, and over the years has developed particularly close relationships with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, who gave the world premiere of Dream of the Song under his baton in September 2015.

An honorary fellow of King’s College Cambridge, the Guildhall, the Royal College and the Royal Academy of Music, Benjamin is also and Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society. He was awarded a C.B.E. in 2010, made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2015, and knighted in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours. He has frequently taught and performed at the Tanglewood Festival over the last 18 years, and since 2001 has been the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King’s College, London and was made a Fellow of the College in 2017. His works are published by Faber Music and are recorded on Nimbus Records.

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