Born in 1960, George Benjamin began composing at the age of seven. In 1976 he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study with Messiaen, after which he worked with Alexander Goehr at King's College, Cambridge.
When he was only 20 years old, Ringed by the Flat Horizon was played at the BBC Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Mark Elder. The London Sinfonietta and Simon Rattle premiered At First Light two years later. Antara was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the Pompidou Centre in 1987 and Three Inventions was written for the 75th Salzburg Festival in 1995. The London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez premiered Palimpsests in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, a season-long portrait which included the first performance of Shadowlines by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Recent seasons have seen major surveys of Benjamin’s work given by the Berliner Philharmoniker, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, the Composer Festival at Konzerthaus Stockholm and Radio France’s Festival Présences.
Benjamin’s first operatic work Into the Little Hill, written with playwright Martin Crimp, was commissioned in 2006 by the Festival d'Automne in Paris. Their second collaboration, Written on Skin, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence festival in July 2012, has since been scheduled by over 20 international opera houses, winning as many international awards. Lessons in Love and Violence, a third collaboration with Martin Crimp, premiered at the Royal Opera House in 2018; both works were filmed by BBC television, and a related ’Imagine’ profile on Benjamin was broadcast on BBC1 in October 2018. His latest collaboration with Crimp is Picture a day like this, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 2023, with the composer conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
As a conductor Benjamin has a broad repertoire - ranging from Mozart and Schumann to Knussen and Abrahamsen - and has been responsible for numerous premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Murail, Grisey and Ligeti. Over many years he has developed a particularly close association with the Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Philharmonique de Radio France, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the latter giving the world premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra at the 2021 BBC Proms under his baton.
Since 2001 Benjamin has been the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King‘s College London. His works are published by Faber Music and are recorded on Nimbus Records. He has received numerous honorary fellowships and international awards, was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2015 and was knighted in the 2017 Birthday Honours. In 2019 he was given the Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale, he received the Grand Prix artistique from the Simone et Cino Del Duca Foundation at the Institut de France in 2022. In 2023 he was made the 50th laureate of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.