"Yesterday I listened... today I loved!"
Posted on: 12th Apr 2012
George Benjamin’s At First Light comes to Sounds New on Friday 4 May, with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Diego Masson.
Written in 1982 for a fourteen-piece chamber orchestra, the work was inspired by JMW Turner’s painting Norham Castle: Sunrise. The piece was a commission from the London Sinfonietta, received the day after he had made his compositional Proms debut with a performance of Ringed by the Flat Horizon in 1980 at the tender age of twenty, making him the youngest-ever composer to be performed at the Proms.
An evocation of the emergence of the dawn, the piece is as richly-hued in both instrumental texture and timbral gesture as Turner’s painting is in colour-bound effects. The beautiful tone-colours at the beginning of the following excerpt (the last seven minutes) are ravishing in the extreme, almost impressionistic in their voluptuous, sensuous colouristic feel (mute trumpets and added-note minor chords make it sound almost Gil Evans-like at one point), building towards the climactic brass, piccolo and tam-tam cry towards the end, before a filigree-textured repeated gesture bursts into a shimmering, brash cry from brass and strings to bring an astonishing piece to its conclusion.
Ivan Hewitt, writing in the Telegraph at Benjamin’s fiftieth-birthday celebration concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall two years ago, observed that ‘Benjamin is a composer who keeps growing. We haven't heard the best of him yet.’ Surely an exciting prospect.
The concert at Sounds new on 4 May also features Maxwell Davies’ Mirror of Whitening Light and works by Oliver Knussen, Simon Bainbridge and others. Time to get very excited indeed.
See details of the complete concert online here.
Posted by Daniel Harding.