George Benjamin's new orchestral Dance Figures has been premiered to much acclaim in Chicago by Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The 15-minute work is a three-way co-commission between the CSO, Strasbourg Musica and the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels. It receives its European concert premiere on 23 September as part of Benjamin’s extended residency at this year’s Strasbourg Musica festival (where 10 of his works will be performed, including most of his large-scale essays). Dance Figures will then be premiered as a ballet, with choreography by Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, in Brussels in May 2006.
Critics were full of praise for the new work:
“Benjamin’s music grabs our attention from all directions, but he makes sure that we feel a sense of underlying logic even though we might be hard-pressed to define it precisely. The CSO sounded like a band of individual virtuosos in his lively, intricate textures.”
Chicago Sun Times (Wynne Delecoma), 21 May 2005
“Contrasts abound. In the fourth scene, a lone oboe tries unsuccessfully to assert itself over bellicose blasts of brass. No 6 is a menacing noise machine, all growling brasses and eruptive percussion, a metrical tug of war for full orchestra that is the most arresting music in the piece. As ever the fastidious ear for detail and clarity of texture that have led British critics to rhapsodize over Benjamin were much to be admired.”
Chicago Tribune (John von Rhein), 21 May 2005
The amount of interest already generated by the score suggests that it will enter the standard repertory - as have so many of Benjamin’s other glittering masterpieces.