'Dance Figures' reviews

‘…with Benjamin every work counts and every note justifies its place. That is much the case with Dance Figures…as with anything else he has written. In 15 minutes it expresses more than most composers do in an hour. By Benjamin’s standards a 15-minute work takes on Wagnerian proportions…The imaginative scope of the music, with its fluent contrasts of character, form and colour, is such that Benjamin must be encouraged to write more for the theatre: it has loosened his creative juices without loss of quality control. Dance Figures may be a study in movement but it has just as much to say as pure music. Benjamin leads the ear with such poise and deftness – belying the huge orchestral forces at his disposal – that the listener has barely enough time to register each atmospheric shift. Everything is seamlessly achieved, in a way that makes maximum purchase on minimum outlay. There are harmonic nods to Berg, Debussy and Elgar, but the musical ideas are all unmistakably Benjamin’s and there are enough to fill a library, among them a plaintive viola song, a dialogue for bass clarinet and cello, and irregular brassy gallop. The finale really tingles, as if the author has just uncorked the bubbly.’
Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 26 July 2006
 
‘Each of Benjamin’s orchestral works… is a miraculously crafted masterpiece, often the result of years of planning and sketching. But Dance Figures has a directness and at times a simplicity that is new in his catalogue. In writing a piece for dancers, Benjamin has thinned out the dense layerings and intricate polyphony that often characterises his music. The result, in the nine interlinked sections of Dance Figures, is a distillation of his style and an enhancement of its poetry. The first six sections play together and create a single arc of gradually increasing speed and tension. The last three sections telescope and amplify this journey, ending in some of the most exciting and immediate music Benjamin has ever written…’
The Guardian (Tom Service), 26 July 2006
 
‘…nine characterful movements written to be choreographed, but gripping as a concert work, mysteriously evoking 20th-century orchestration at its most lucid and glamorous.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 30 July 2006
 
‘…a dazzling parade of images. The virtuosity of the music and its scoring are remarkable…’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 1 April 2008
 
‘Its nine, mostly brief sections were vibrantly colored…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 Delacoma), 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

 

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