"A terrific 18-minute tour de force" The Times

Instrumentation

2(=picc).2(II=ca).2.cbcl.2 – 2231 – perc(3): 2 crot/4 timp/susp.cym/2 bongos/2 SD/BD/tuned c.bell – strings(10.8.6.5.3) The parts for cello 5 and double bass 3 can be doubled. All three double basses require low C-strings or extensions

Availability

Score 0571542530 on sale, and parts for hire

Programme Notes

This Concerto for Orchestra was written in memory of Oliver Knussen, with whom I maintained the closest of friendships for 40 years. His passing in 2018 was widely mourned in the musical world; his extraordinary brilliance as composer and conductor – and kindness and generosity as a person – are irreplaceable. 

 

In some ways this work attempts to conjure a trace of the energy, humour, and spirit I associate with my friend and its mood is often playful, though on occasion it twists into much more turbulent terrain.

The score is also dedicated to – and was written for - the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble with whom I have developed a particularly close working relationship. The orchestral writing is frequently virtuosic, and every instrument has its moment in the foreground - hence the title.

During its virtually unbroken 18-minute span, shaped almost entirely within a single tempo, a wide diversity of instrumental invention evolves, interacts, and superimposes. Long, suspended lines weave a path through contrasting textures, some rapid and skittish, others more dynamic and propulsive. All of the instruments play multiple roles – both dramatic and sonoric – across the structure, among them a volatile solo tuba, elaborate horn duos, bubbling clarinets and two pairs of rumbling timpani. Most prominent of all are the impassioned first violins, who almost have the last word during the work’s tranquil conclusion.

G.B. June 2021

 

Reviews

'A terrific 18-minute tour de force'
The Times (Richard Morrison), 31 August 2021
 
'It is music of staggering invention,but without any bombast and without any showing off, just like the composer himself'
The Arts Desk (Gavin Dixon), 31 August 2021
 
'It is everything we have come to expect from Benjamin, music that has much to say but never wastes its breath... the ideas building on each other, dying out, forming afresh, and yet the atmosphere is palpably threatening, with ominous low brass, fearfully scampering strings and climaxes that build to peaks of tension. Through a glass darkly we glimpse the same worlds as Benjamin’s two full-length operas'
Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 31 August 2021
 
'Brilliant solos from around the orchestra constantly breaking through the intricately detailed textures, it certainly justifies the description of “concerto”, but there are moments of quieter reflection that interrupt the hectic virtuoso activity, too, when the extended string lines that thread their way through the worktake centre stage, and articulate the single-movement form'
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 31 August 2021
 
'As with everything Benjamin writes, the concerto gleams, all the sonic ingredients individuated, clarity and intricate detail turning every player into a soloist. In this composer’s music it’s as if every bar, every idea, is an essence of the whole: an atom, more like the smallest in a set of Russian dolls. Dancing through the concerto’s buoyant, conversational exchange, dominating all, is the tuba… After a gnarly orchestral climax, the tuba plays a long, triple fortissimo low note, then falls silent, leaving the rest of the ensemble, spare and ethereal, to spin into the ether, crotales ringing out softly'
The Observer (Fiona Maddocks), 4 September 2021

Concerto for Orchestra

Philharmonie (Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

George Benjamin, Gürzenich Orchester, Cameron Shahbazi, ChorWerk Ruhr

Concerto for Orchestra

Philharmonie (Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

George Benjamin, Gürzenich Orchester, Cameron Shahbazi, ChorWerk Ruhr

Concerto for Orchestra

Philharmonie (Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

George Benjamin, Gürzenich Orchester, Cameron Shahbazi, ChorWerk Ruhr