One of today’s most prominent composer-conductors, George Benjamin was born in 1960 and began composing at the age of seven. In 1976 he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study with Olivier Messiaen, after which he worked with Alexander Goehr at King's College, Cambridge.
When Benjamin was only 20 years old, “Ringed by the Flat Horizon” was played at the BBC Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder. The London Sinfonietta, under Sir Simon Rattle, premiered “At First Light” two years later. The London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez premiered “Palimpsests” in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, a season-long portrait which also included the premiere of “Shadowlines” by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. During the 2018/19 season the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie presented major surveys of his work. This season the Composer Festival at Konzerthaus Stockholm and Radio France's Festival Présences are both dedicated to Benjamin’s work. He will conduct at both, including a performance of “Written on Skin” in the Paris Philharmonie and then returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra with a concert in London in celebration of his sixtieth birthday.
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 opera, “Written on Skin”, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence festival in July 2012, has since been presented at over 20 international opera houses, winning many international prizes. A new collaboration with Martin Crimp, “Lessons in Love and Violenc”, was premiered at the Royal Opera House in May 2018 and over 50 performances have already been scheduled around the world; the German premiere was given at the Staatsoper Hamburg last year under the baton of Kent Nagano. Both of these large-scale works were filmed for release on DVD and broadcast by BBC television.
As a conductor Benjamin has a broad repertoire – ranging from Mozart and Schumann to Knussen and Abrahamsen – and has been responsible for numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti. In summer 2019 he conducted two performances at the Lucerne Festival Academy and the previous year appeared at the BBC Proms, with both the London Sinfonietta (with whom he has
worked regularly since the early 1980s) and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. During the 2018/19 season he returned to the Berliner Philharmoniker and his close collaboration with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra continued with performances of “Into the Little Hill” and “Written on Skin” in Berlin. He also led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, with whom he has had an association for many years, made his debut with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and conducted a major European tour with the Ensemble Modern Orchestra.
Benjamin has frequently appeared at the Tanglewood Festival and since 2001 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.
Status: August 2020