One of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s closest musical partners and friends, the composer and conductor George Benjamin, has been awarded a Knighthood in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
George Benjamin, who had already been conferred the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to music, is one of the most important composers of today.
The most defining project of George Benjamin’s affiliation with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra is, without a doubt, his opera Written on Skin, which was premiered by the MCO – with the composer himself conducting – at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2012. In an interview given shortly before the opera’s premiere, George Benjamin mentioned the MCO’s influence on the composition of this piece; indeed, this opera was “designed for the MCO”.
In the five years since the opera’s premiere, the MCO has continued to play an important role in its evolvement and development. In 2015, the MCO gave the US premiere of Written on Skin at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival – a performance which was named one of the best classical music events of the year by the New York Times. In spring 2016, the MCO reunited with George Benjamin for a European tour of Written on Skin, featuring the semi-staged concert version of the opera and including a majority of the original cast.
Of course, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s relationship with George Benjamin extends beyond performances of Written on Skin. In recent years, the MCO is proud to have incorporated many of George Benjamin’s chamber music works into its repertoire. Viola, Viola is, for example, a piece that has been travelling with the orchestra since MCO violists Beatrice Muthelet and Anna Puig Torné first performed it in Aix-en-Provence in 2012. Both musicians have continued to work intensively with the composer on this piece.
Most recently, during the European Written on Skin tour in spring 2016, musicians of the MCO appeared in multiple performances of George Benjamin’s work in two special series: Konzerthaus Dortmund’s Zeitinsel and the Barbican Centre’s Benjamin at the Barbican, both of which showcased the composer’s different facets.
The Mahler Chamber Orchestra sends its heartfelt congratulations to Sir George, and already looks forward to their next collaboration!
Photos: Geoffroy Schied / Pascal Amos Rest