Benjamin’s 50th birthday celebrations hit a climax this summer when he featured at several prominent festivals!
Ojai Festival, California
As this year’s Music Director for California’s Ojai Festival, three of Benjamin’s works were heard during the four-day, six-concert event, from 10-16 June. Benjamin’s programming, the bulk of it played by the Ensemble Modern, included Stravinsky's Soldier’s Tale and the chamber version of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra – as well as works by composers closer to him both personally and stylistically, including Messiaen, Ligeti, Boulez and Knussen. LA Times critic Mark Swed heralded Benjamin as ‘a refined, generous musician of many sides’ and applauded Into the Little Hill.
'Benjamin’s score gets under the skin. Shadowy instruments – bass flute, contrabass clarinet, two basset horns, mandolin, banjo, double bass – were made to sound weirdly light and insubstantial. In diamond-like mysterious instrumental phrases, the sinister turned ethereal then mystical. A small masterpiece...'
LA Times (Mark Swed)
Aldeburgh Festival, Suffolk
The Aldeburgh Festival began with a chance to revisit the London Sinfonietta & the Opera Group’s staging of Into the Little Hill, followed by an array of concerts presenting a broad scope of Benjamin’s oeuvre.
‘Susan Bickley sang Benjamin's setting of WB Yeats’s Long-legged Fly at its premiere. Twenty years later, she reminded us why Upon Silence remains one of the composer's most profound offerings. Like the slender opera Into the Little Hill, which transferred fluently for two performances on the Maltings stage in John Fulljames’s production, it draws on Benjamin’s peerless ability to create tight structure from a haze of colour, harmony from complex, intractable-seeming material, and bright innovation from painstaking craftsmanship. Both works take music and its powers, often abused, for their main subject. It is a subject that Benjamin’s contributions of the last three decades or so have further deepened and ennobled.’
The Guardian (Guy Damman), 21 June 2010
‘...At First Light (1982) was revealed as a masterpiece of the modern orchestral repertoire.'
Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 13 June 2010
Buxton Festival & Latitude Festival, Suffolk
Into the Little Hill continued to marvel audiences this summer hitting the festival scene on tour with the London Sinfonietta and the Opera Group to Buxton Festival and Suffolk’s multi-arts festival Latitude, before arriving for a run of performances at the Linbury Studio in Covent Garden at the end of July. For this tour, Into the Little Hill was coupled with Berio’s rarely performed tour de force Recital 1.
Benjamin at the Proms in 2010
The London premiere of Benjamin’s Duet for piano and orchestra was eagerly awaited since its 2008 premiere in Lucerne, but at last on 2nd August, Pierre-Laurent Aimard wowed the BBC Proms audiences with his performance of this extraordinary and striking work. Jonathan Nott conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the London premiere.
‘...Aimard laying out the grounds for discussion on which the orchestra built an elaborate song-and-dance. Even in the most florid passages, every piano note was precisely placed, generating a whirlwind of responses: a delightful fragment of harp melody, baleful trombone rasps, a brief swoon from the strings. Exuberance is not always a quality associated with Benjamin’s music; Duet has it in abundance. Fractured, jumpy figures hinted at the possibility of dance without ever settling on a regular rhythm, while on the podium, Nott seemed forever on the verge of take-off, until the barnstorming climax brought everything to a juddering halt.’
The Evening Standard (Nick Kimberley), July 2010
Benjamin’s music made a second appearance at the Proms came just a few days later on 6 August, in the form of a late night concert to celebrate Benjamin’s 50th-birthday year. The programme combined British composers Knussen and Bedford, as well as Benjamin’s Three Inventions for Chamber Orchestra, alongside the UK premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Wald. The concert was vividly executed by the BCMG conducted by the talented Ilan Volkov.
See these websites for more details:
Many articles and previews have been published in advance of his forthcoming appearances :
Click HERE for Barbara Beck’s interview with Benjamin for The Economist
Click HERE for Ivan Hewett’s interview with Benjamin for The Telegraph
Click HERE for an article by Benjamin himself in The Guardian
Click HERE to read about Benjamin in the Ventura County Star