“We are probably talking about the most important name in contemporary music." Víctor García de Gomar, Secretary of the BBVA Foundation Committee

Composer and conductor Sir George Benjamin has won the prestigious 2024 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Music and Opera. As the sixteenth recipient of the award he joins an illustrious roster of prize-winners in the category, including György Kurtág, Arvo Pärt, and Pierre Boulez.

The awards committee described “his extraordinary contribution and impact in contemporary creation in the realms of symphonic music, opera and chamber music”. “Using a highly personal and distinctive language,” the citation continues, “he manages to communicate directly with the audience, without forgoing a rigorous, fine-grained workmanship in all aspects of composition, with particular regard to his mastery of orchestration and tone color, and exquisite formal architecture.”

They noted the significance of Benjamin’s four operas, created with playwright Martin Crimp – Into the Little Hill (2006), Written on Skin (2009-12), Lessons in Love and Violence (2015-17) and Picture a day like this (2023) – which showed Benjamin, in the words of the committee, “modernizing the operatic language, proposing new structures and consistently presenting an emotional dramaturgy that both connects with and moves the public of the 21st century.”

Secretary of the committee, Víctor García de Gomar, Artistic Director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, said of Benjamin: “We are probably talking about the most important name in contemporary music. And he is still a formidable creative force. Every new addition to his catalogue is eagerly awaited, especially in the world of opera: he writes a new one every four or five years, and with that rhythm of output and the quality of his work, expectations are always high.” Read the full citation, including comments on Benjamin's music from conductor Josep Pons, who gave the Spanish premiere of Lessons in Love and Violence, here

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, funded with 400,000 euros in each of their eight categories, recognize and reward contributions of singular impact in science, technology, the humanities and music, privileging those that significantly enlarge the stock of knowledge in a discipline, open up new fields, or build bridges between disciplinary areas.

In 2023 Benjamin was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize; in 2022 he received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection, and the Institut de France’s Grand Prix artistique 2022 de la Fondation Simone et Cino Del Duca. Previous awards include the 2015 Prince Pierre of Monaco composition prize (for Written on Skin) and the 2019 Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale. He was awarded a C.B.E. in 2010 and made an Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2015.

In the 2023/24 season Benjamin has been a composer-in-focus at the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Festival Aspects des Musiques d’Aujourd’hui and the Festival des Volques, Nîmes. 2023 also saw portraits of the composer at the Aix-en-Provence Festival – which saw the world premiere of Picture a day like this Gürzenich Orchester Köln, and an Ensemble Modern tour celebrating their longstanding collaboration with the composer-conductor.