'music of staggering invention' The Arts Desk (Gavin Dixon), 31 August 2021
Benjamin’s new Concerto for Orchestra has been met with great acclaim following its premiere at the BBC Proms on 30 August and subsequent performances at Phiharmonie Berlin and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. The composer conducted the virtuoso Mahler Chamber Orchestra in all three performances alongside his own graceful transcriptions of Purcell, and The Way to Castle Yonder by Oliver Knussen. Benjamin’s Concerto for Orchestra was written in fond memory of Knussen.
Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, supported by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, and BBC Radio 3.
'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 work take 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