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Composer & Conductor

George Benjamin

George Benjamin headshot


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 Benjamin was only 20 years old, Ringed by the Flat Horizon was played at the BBC Proms and two years later At First Light was premiered by the London Sinfonietta and Sir Simon Rattle. The London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez premiered Palimpsests in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, a season-long portrait. Recent seasons have seen major surveys of Benjamin’s work at the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, the Composer Festival at Konzerthaus Stockholm and Radio France’s Festival Présences. In March 2020 the Philharmonia Orchestra presented a concert at the South Bank to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, and in September he conducted performances with two groups with whom he has had a particularly close association over many years, Ensemble Modern and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The latter gave the world premiere of Benjamin’s Concerto for Orchestra at the 2021 BBC Proms under his baton, with subsequent performances at the Berlin Musikfest and at the Elbphilharmonie. 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, and their third collaboration, Lessons in Love and Violence, was premiered at the Royal Opera House in May 2018. 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 and has been responsible for numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti. Recent seasons have seen him conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker, Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble and Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the London Sinfonietta. Benjamin is 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.