The British composer Sir George Benjamin (1960) was sixteen when he went to Paris to study with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire. After further studies with Alexander Goehr at King’s College, Cambridge, he made his debut in 1980 at the BBC Proms with his orchestral piece Ringed by the Flat Horizon. This composition was followed by A Mind of Winter (1981) and At First Light (1982) works famous for their colourful orchestration and richly beautiful sound-worlds. In the 1990s the composer developed a more refined and formal style which led to Three Inventions for Chamber Orchestra (1995) and Palimpsests (2002). These were followed in 2006 by the chamber opera Into the Little Hill, Benjamin’s first piece for music theatre, performed at the Holland Festival in 2007. This work marked the start of his collaboration with dramatist Martin Crimp with whom he created Written on Skin which was premiered at the 2012 Aix-en-Provence festival. This full scale opera was performed in the same year at the Dutch National Opera in Katie Mitchell’s highly successful production, and since then the work has travelled to about 20 opera houses around the globe. Lessons in Love and Violence (2017) is the third opera Benjamin and Crimp have created together.
Benjamin’s work is performed worldwide, often under his own direction. In his role as conductor he regularly appears with internationally renowned orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Ensemble Modern. In 2015 he conducted the world premiere of his own Dream of the Song with the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw, an orchestra with whom he maintains a particularly close relationship. George Benjamin has frequently returned to teach and perform at the Tanglewood Festival since 1999; he lives and works in London where since 2001 he has held the position of Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King’s College London. In 2015 Sir George Benjamin was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and he was knighted in 2017; he is Composer in Focus during the 2018 Holland Festival.