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. More recent celebrations of Benjamin’s work have taken place at the Southbank Centre in 2012 (as part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad), at the Barbican in 2016 and at the Wigmore Hall in 2019. The last decade has also seen multi-concert retrospectives in San Francisco, Frankfurt, Turin, Milan, Aldeburgh, Toronto, Dortmund, New York and at the 2018 Holland Festival.
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.
As a conductor Benjamin has a broad repertoire - ranging from Mozart and Schumann to Knussen, Murail and Abrahamsen - and has conducted numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti. He regularly works with some of the world's leading orchestras, and over the years has developed particularly close relationships with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, who gave the world premiere of Dream of the Song in September 2015. During the 2018-19 season Benjamin was composer-in-residence with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Musikfest and at the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
Recent awards include the 2015 Prince Pierre of Monaco composition
prize (for Written on Skin) and the 2019 Golden Lion Award for
lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale. An honorary fellow of King’s
College Cambridge, the Guildhall, the Royal College and the Royal Academy
of Music, Benjamin is also an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic
Society. He was awarded a C.B.E. in 2010 and made an Commandeur de l’Ordre
des Arts et des Lettres in 2015, and was knighted in the 2017 Queen's
Birthday Honours. He has frequently taught and performed at the Tanglewood
Festival over the last 20 years, and since 2001 has been the Henry Purcell
Professor of Composition at King’s College, London and was made a Fellow
of the College in 2017. His works are published by Faber Music and are recorded
on Nimbus Records. Benjamin was elected as a member of the Royal Swedish
Academy of Music in 2018.
== Biography from the website of his publisher, Faber Music
== Names which are links in this box refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
Nicolas de Grigny was born in 1672 in Reims in the parish of Saint-Pierre-Le-Vieil. The exact date of his birth is unknown; he was baptized on 8 September. He was born into a family of musicians: his father, his grandfather, and his uncle, Robert, were organists at the Reims Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Pierre and St. Hilaire, respectively. Few details about his life are known, nothing at all about his formative years. Between 1693 and 1695 he served as organist of the abbey church of Saint Denis, in Paris (where his brother André de Grigny was sub-prior). It was also during that period that Grigny studied with Nicolas Lebègue, who was by then one of the most famous French keyboard composers. In 1695 Grigny married Marie-Magdeleine de France, daughter of a Parisian merchant. Apparently, he returned to his hometown soon afterwards: the record of the birth of his first son indicates that de Grigny was already in Reims in 1696. The couple went on to produce six more children.By late 1697 Grigny was appointed titular organist of Notre-Dame de Reims (the exact date of the appointment is not known), the city's famous cathedral in which French kings were crowned. In 1699 the composer published his Premier livre d'orgue [contenant une messe et les hymnes des principalles festes de l'année] in Paris. Grigny died in 1703, aged 31, shortly after accepting a job offer from Saint Symphorien, a parish church in Reims. His Livre d'orgue was reissued in 1711 through the efforts of his widow. The collection became known abroad: it was copied in 1713 by Johann Sebastian Bach.
[Let me say here, once again, that even though I have collected recordings all my life, and for a quarter century I made my living as an announcer/producer
with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, I have always stated, both publicly and privately, that the real music is in the live concert.]
© 2005 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on April 18, 2005. Portions were broadcast on WNUR the following month, and again in 2008 and 2017; and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2005, 2008, and 2015. This transcription was made in 2020, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.